Air Force Plans Nuke-Powered Spacecraft, Space-Based Power Stations

A USAF report forecasts fundamental changes to energy technology, methods.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    An air-to-air front view of an F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft of the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

    The United States Air Force plans to institute revolutionary changes over the next fifteen years designed to meet the energy challenges of the twenty-first century.

    In a publicly-available official report issued earlier this month, the USAF unveils a sweeping new paradigm for energy science and technology. According to an exhaustive summary at Space.com, the report discloses wide-ranging USAF-backed initiatives to boost energy supply, cut back on demand, and fundamentally alter military protocol to suit cutting-edge mission needs.

    Perhaps most significantly, the report—formally titled "Energy Horizons: United States Air Force Energy S&T Vision 2011-2026"—augurs the development of space-based power stations and the use of spacecraft powered by nuclear reactors on Earth.

    "Energy is a center of gravity in war and an assured energy advantage can enable victory," Mark Maybury, chief scientist for the USAF, said in remarks appended to the report.

    Space.com highlights the report's prospective model for a Space Solar Power System (SBSP) that might beam solar power to Earth via laser transmission. This radical conception of energy has been in research since the early 1970s.

    Major technological advancements in the SBPS method could be completely revolutionary, the report says.

    The USAF announcement also details the construction of small modular nuclear reactors on Earth that might power crafts set out in space.

    The report is accompanied by a cover letter signed by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, who highlight the key role of sound energy policies.

    "Energy is essential to all Air Force missions," they write. "Improving energy efficiency, reducing demand and changing the culture is vital to mission success."