Star Wars' Heavy Load

Assume that research on the Strategic Defense Initiative is so successful that the U.S. can begin deploying the first elements of a missile-killing system by the mid-1990s. At that point, Star Wars will require launching objects into space on a scale far beyond anything ever before attempted--up to 50 times the weight of military payloads that were going up when the American shuttles and rockets were flying. How to put all those sensors, computers, laser mirrors, rocket-firing satellite battle stations and even miniature nuclear reactors into the heavens, and at what cost?

These questions have been largely obscured by the national...

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