Project Excalibur

Project Excalibur

Project Excalibur

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Project Excalibur was a United States government nuclear weapons research program to develop a nuclear pumped x-ray laser for ballistic missile defence. It became part of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Conceived by nuclear scientist Edward Teller, the concept involved packing large numbers of expendable x-ray lasers into a nuclear bomb. When it detonated, the bomb would fire laser beams in many directions. The intention was to shoot down enemy nuclear missiles.

The plan was to place the whole apparatus on a satellite in orbit. It would have actually required many satellites in orbit, since there needed to be at least one between the U.S. and its enemies when a massive launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) occurred. The Soviet Union was the only foe technologically able to accomplish a massive simultaneous launch.

The x-ray laser gain media would be pumped by the extremely high density of high energy photons that appear in the first nanoseconds of a nuclear detonation. During these nanoseconds, the photon density is nearly as high as in regular matter. The pumped media would emit a pulse of coherent x-rays, in the direction of the long axis of the media. The calculations showed that the extremely high gain and high energy pulse from the lasers would occur before the detonation destroyed the lasers and the rest of the satellite. If large numbers of pieces of gain media were used, each pre-aligned to point at a missile, then a large number of the...
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