space defense program gets extra funding

space defense program gets extra fundingfrom washington post: While wrestling with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon is preparing weapons to fight the next battle from space, according to information in the 621-page, House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.

The $459 billion bill, which awaits President Bush's signature, provides $100 million for a new "prompt global strike" program that could deliver a conventional, precision-guided warhead anywhere in the world within two hours. It takes funds away from development of a conventional warhead for the Navy's submarine-launched Trident Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and from an Air Force plan for the Common Aero Vehicle.

The new program, dubbed Falcon, for "Force Application and Launch from CONUS," Force Application and Launch from CONUS centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency describes Falcon as a "a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the continental United States] in less than two hours."

Hypersonic speed is far greater than the speed of sound. The reusable vehicle being contemplated would "provide the country with significant capability to conduct responsive missions with quick turn-around sortie rates while providing aircraft-like operability and mission-recall capability," according to DARPA...

"Enhancing these capabilities is critical, particularly following the Chinese anti-satellite-weapons demonstration last January," the conferees wrote in their report. They were referring to a Jan. 11 incident in which a Chinese guided missile destroyed an aging weather satellite in orbit.