Under human supervision but without human piloting, a prototype of the Boeing Co.'s X-45 took off from the desert base, opened its bomb bay doors, dropped a 250-pound Small Smart Bomb and then landed. The inert bomb struck within inches of the truck it was supposed to hit, Boeing said.
The X-45A was preprogrammed with the target coordinates and used the satellite-based Global Positioning System to adjust its course. The Y-shaped, tailless plane has a 34-foot wingspan and weighs 8,000 pounds empty. It is the first drone designed specifically to carry weapons into combat. Boeing hopes to build hundreds of the X-45 planes, which would cost $10 million to $15 million each.
The satellite's primary mission is to gather data on the exhaust fumes of rockets in space, information that will then be used to help future space weapons differentiate more clearly between a target and its trailing plume.
But NFIRE is itself weaponized, carrying a projectile-packed "kill vehicle" that can destroy passing missiles or satellites [...] This marks the first time in history that any nation has put a weapon in space, despite America's still-official policy against such a practice. [...] It began in August 2002 and has moved steadily toward its long-established Summer 2004 launch date. [...]
And the boys in Space Command are just getting warmed up. They wowed the salivating Bushist faithful in Congress with highly detailed plans for a whizbang space arsenal led by the "Rods From God" -- bundles of tungsten rods fired from orbiting platforms, hurtling toward earth at 3,700 meters per second, accurate within a range of 8 meters and able to destroy even the most hardened targets, the Center for Defense Information reports. They could be launched at only a few minutes' notice at any target on the planet.