From Star Wars to Smart Rocks

A scaled-down version of SDI threatens the ABM treaty

Even by the tongue-twisting standards of the Star Wars lexicon, the newcomer is something of a mouthful: space-based kinetic kill vehicles, or SBKKVs for short. Some scientists refer to them as "smart rocks," since they are basically just projectiles designed to smack into enemy missiles. But they also have the potential of smacking into and perhaps even destroying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. It is the alleged "stunning success" of smart-rock experiments, rather than any progress on the laser and particle- beam zappers usually associated with Star Wars, that has prompted Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to argue that "we are closer...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!