by Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., GNSH
November 5, 1996
Military interest in space became
intense during and after World War II because of the introduction of
rocket science, the companion to nuclear technology. The early
versions include the buzz bomb and guided missiles.
They were thought of as potential
carriers of both nuclear and conventional bombs.
Rocket technology and nuclear weapon technology developed
simultaneously between 1945 and 1963. During this time of intensive
atmospheric nuclear testing, explosions at various levels above and
below the surface of the earth were attempted. Some of the now
familiar descriptions of the earth's protective atmosphere, such as
the existence of the Van Allen belts, were based on information
gained through stratospheric and ionospheric experimentation.
The earth's atmosphere consists of the troposphere, from sea level
to about 16 km above the earth's surface; the stratosphere (which
contains the ozone level) which extends from about the 16 to 48 km
above the earth; and the ionosphere which extends from 48 km to over
50,000 km above the surface of the earth.
The earth's protective atmosphere or "skin" extends beyond 3,200 km
above sea level to the large magnetic fields, called the Van Allen
Belts, which can capture the charged particles sprayed through the
cosmos by the solar and galactic winds. These belts were discovered
in 1958 during the first weeks of the operation of America's first
satellite, Explorer I.
They appear to contain charged particles
trapped in the earth's gravity and magnetic fields. Primary galactic
cosmic rays enter the solar system from interstellar space, and are
made up of protons with energies above 100 MeV, extending up to
astronomically high energies. They make up about 100 percent of the
high energy rays. Solar rays are generally of lower energy, below 20
MeV (which is still high energy in earth terms).
These high energy particles are affected
by the earth's magnetic field and by geomagnetic latitude (distance
above or below the geomagnetic equator). The flux density of low
energy protons at the top of the atmosphere is normally greater at
the poles than at the equator. The density also varies with solar
activity, being at a minimum when solar flares are at a minimum.
The Van Allen belts capture charged particles (protons, electrons
and alpha particles) and these spiral along the magnetic force lines
toward the polar regions where the force lines converge. They are
reflected back and forth between the magnetic force lines near the
poles. The lower Van Allen Belt is about 7700 km above the earth's
surface, and the outer Van Allen Belt is about 51,500 km above the
According to the Encyclopedia
the Van Allen belts are most intense along the equator,
and effectively absent over the poles. They dip to 400 km over the
South Atlantic Ocean, and are about 1,000 km high over the Central
Pacific Ocean. In the lower Van Allen Belt, the proton intensity is
about 20,000 particles with energy above 30 MeV per second per
square centimeter. Electrons reach a maximum energy of 1 MeV, and
their intensity has a maximum of 100 million per second per square
centimeter. In the outer Belt, proton energy averages only 1 MeV.
For comparison, most charged particles
discharged in a nuclear explosion range between 0.3 and 3 MeV, while
diagnostic medical X-ray has peak voltage around 0.5 MeV.
Between August and September 1958, the US Navy exploded three
fission type nuclear bombs 480 km above the South Atlantic Ocean, in
the part of the lower Van Allen Belt closest to the earth's surface.
In addition, two hydrogen bombs were detonated 160 km over Johnston
Island in the Pacific. The military called this "the biggest
scientific experiment ever undertaken."
It was designed by the US Department of
Defense and the US Atomic Energy Commission, under the code name
Project Argus. The purpose appears to be to assess the impact of
high altitude nuclear explosions on radio transmission and radar
operations because of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP),
and to increase understanding of the geomagnetic field and the
behavior of the charged particles in it.
This gigantic experiment created new (inner) magnetic radiation
belts encompassing almost the whole earth, and injected sufficient
electrons and other energetic particles into the ionosphere to cause
world wide effects. The electrons traveled back and forth along
magnetic force lines, causing an artificial "aurora" when striking
the atmosphere near the North Pole.
The US Military planned to create a "telecommunications shield" in
the ionosphere, reported in 13-20 August 1961, Keesings
Historisch Archief (K.H.A.). This shield would be created,
"in the ionosphere at 3,000 km
height, by bringing into orbit 350,000 million copper needles,
each 2-4 cm long [total weight 16 kg], forming a belt 10 km
thick and 40 km wide, the needles spaced about 100 m apart."
This was designed to replace the
ionosphere "because telecommunications are impaired by magnetic
storms and solar flares." The US planned to add to the number of
copper needles if the experiment proved to be successful.
This plan was strongly opposed by the
Intentional Union of Astronomers.
On July 9, 1962, the US began a further series of experiments with
From their description:
"one kiloton device, at a height of
60 km and one megaton and one multi-megaton, at several hundred
(K.H.A., 29 June 1962).
These tests seriously disturbed the
lower Van Allen Belt, substantially altering its shape and
"In this experiment the inner Van
Allen Belt will be practically destroyed for a period of time;
particles from the Belt will be transported to the atmosphere.
It is anticipated that the earth's magnetic field will be
disturbed over long distances for several hours, preventing
radio communication. The explosion in the inner radiation belt
will create an artificial dome of polar light that will be
visible from Los Angeles"
(K.H.A. 11 May 1962).
A Fijian Sailor, present at this nuclear
explosion, told me that the whole sky was on fire and he thought it
would be the end of the world. This was the experiment which called
forth the strong protest of the Queen's Astronomer, Sir Martin
Ryle in the UK.
"The ionosphere [according to the
under-standing at that time] that part of the atmosphere between
65 and 80 km and 280- 320 km height, will be disrupted by
mechanical forces caused by the pressure wave following the
explosion. At the same time, large quantities of ionizing
radiation will be released, further ionizing the gaseous
components of the atmosphere at this height. This ionization
effect is strengthened by the radiation from the fission
products... The lower Van Allen Belt, consisting of charged
particles that move along the geomagnetic field lines... will
similarly be disrupted. As a result of the explosion, this field
will be locally destroyed, while countless new electrons will be
introduced into the lower belt"
(K.H.A. 11 May 1962).
"On 19 July... NASA announced that
as a consequence of the high altitude nuclear test of July 9, a
new radiation belt had been formed, stretching from a height of
about 400 km to 1600 km; it can be seen as a temporary extension
of the lower Van Allen Belt"
(K.H.A. 5 August 1962).
As explained in the Encyclopedia
"... Starfish made a much wider belt
[than Project Argus] that extends from low altitude out past L=3
[i.e. three earth radiuses or about 13,000 km above the surface
of the earth]."
Later in 1962, the USSR undertook
similar planetary experiments, creating three new radiation belts
between 7,000 and 13,000 km above the earth. According to the
Encyclopedia, the electron fluxes in the lower Van Allen Belt have
changed markedly since the 1962 high-altitude nuclear explosions by
the US and USSR, never returning to their former state.
According to American scientists, it
could take many hundreds of years for the Van Allen Belts to
destabilize at their normal levels.
(Research done by: Nigel Harle, Borderland Archives,
Cortenbachstraat 32, 6136 CH Sittard, Netherlands.)
Power Satellite Project (1968)
In 1968 the US military proposed Solar Powered Satellites (SPS)
in geostationary orbit some 40,000 km above the earth, which would
intercept solar radiation using solar cells on satellites and
transmit it via a microwave beam to receiving antennas, called
rectennas, on earth. The US Congress mandated the Department of
Energy and NASA to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment
on this project, to be completed by June 1980, and costing $25
This project was designed to construct
60 Solar Powered Satellites over a thirty year period at a
cost between $500 and $800 thousand million (in 1968 dollars),
providing 100 percent of the US energy needs in the year 2025 at a
cost of $3000 per kW. At that time, the project cost was two to
three times larger than the whole Department of Energy budget, and
the projected cost of the electricity was well above the cost of
most conventional energy sources.
The rectenna sites on earth were
expected to take up to 145 square kilometers of land, and would
preclude habitation by any humans, animals or even vegetation.
Each Satellite was to be the size of
Due to a malfunction, the Saturn V Rocket burned unusually high in
the atmosphere, above 300 km. This burn produced "a large
ionospheric hole" (Mendillo, M. Et al., Science p. 187, 343,
1975). The disturbance reduced the total electron content more than
60% over an area 1,000 km in radius, and lasted for several hours.
It prevented all telecommunications over
a large area of the Atlantic Ocean. The phenomenon was apparently
caused by a reaction between the exhaust gases and ionospheric
oxygen ions. The reaction emitted a 6300 A airglow.
Between 1975 and 1981 NASA and the US
Military began to design ways to test this new phenomena through
deliberate experimentation with the ionosphere.
Early review of the Solar Powered Satellite (SPS)
Project began in around 1978, and I was on the review panel.
Although this was proposed as an energy program, it had significant
military implications. One of the most significant, first pointed
out by Michael J. Ozeroff, was the possibility of developing
a satellite-borne beam weapon for anti-ballistic missile (ABM)
The satellites were to be in
geosynchronous orbits, each providing an excellent vantage point
from which an entire hemisphere can be surveyed continuously. It was
speculated that a high-energy laser beam could function as a thermal
weapon to disable or destroy enemy missiles. There was some
discussion of electron weapon beams, through the use of a laser beam
to preheat a path for the following electron beam.
The SPS was also described as a psychological and anti-personnel
weapon, which could be directed toward an enemy. If the main
microwave beam was redirected away from its rectenna, toward
enemy personnel, it could use an infrared radiation wave-length
(invisible) as an anti-personnel weapon. It might also be possible
to transmit high enough energy to ignite combustible materials.
Laser beam power relays could be made
from the SPS satellite to other satellites or platforms, for example
aircraft, for military purposes. One application might be a laser
powered turbofan engine which would receive the laser beam directly
in its combustion chamber, producing the required high temperature
gas for its cruising operation. This would allow unlimited
on-station cruise time. As a psychological weapon, the SPS was
capable of causing general panic.
The SPS would be able to transmit power to remote military
operations anywhere needed on earth. The manned platform of the SPS
would provide surveillance and early warning capability, and ELF
linkage to submarines. It would also provide the capability of
jamming enemy communications. The potential for jamming and creating
communications is significant. The SPS was also capable of causing
physical changes in the ionosphere
President Carter approved the SPS Project and gave it a go- ahead,
in spite of the reservation which many reviewers, myself included,
expressed. Fortunately, it was so expensive, exceeding the entire
Department of Energy budget, that funding was denied by the
I approached the United Nations
Committee on Disarmament on this project, but was told that as long
as the program was called Solar Energy by the United States, it
could not be considered a weapons project. The same project
resurfaced in the US under President Reagan. He moved it to
the much larger budget of the Department of Defense and called it
Star Wars. Since this is more recent history, I will not discuss the
debate which raged over this phase of the plan.
By 1978, it was apparent to the US Military that communications in a
nuclear hostile environment would not be possible using traditional
methods of radio and television technology (Jane's Military
Communications 1978). By 1982, GTE Sylvania (Needham Heights,
Massachusetts) had developed a command control electronic sub-system
for the US Air Force's Ground Launch Cruise Missiles (GLCM)
that would enable military commanders to monitor and control the
missile prior to launch both in hostile and non-hostile
The system contains six radio
subsystems, created with visible light using a dark beam (not
visible) and is resistant to the disruptions experienced by radio
and television. Dark beams contribute to the formation of energetic
plasma in the atmosphere. This plasma can become visible as smog or
fog. Some has a different charge than the sun's energy, and
accumulates in places where the sun's energy is absent, like the
polar regions in the winter.
When the polar spring occurs, the sun
appears and repels this plasma, contributing to holes in the ozone
layer. This military system is called: Ground Wave Emergency
(See The SECOMII Communication System, by Wayne Olsen, SAND 78-
0391,Sandia Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 1978.)
This innovative emergency radio system
was apparently never implemented in Europe, and exists only in North
Maneuvering System (1981)
Part of the plan to build the SPS space platforms was the demand for
reusable space shuttles, since they could not afford to keep
discarding rockets. The NASA Spacelab 3 Mission of the Space Shuttle
made, in 1981, "a series of passes over a network of five ground
based observatories" in order to study what happened to the
ionosphere when the Shuttle injected gases into it from the Orbit
Maneuvering System (OMS).
They discovered that they could "induce
ionospheric holes" and began to experiment with holes made in the
daytime, or at night over Millstone, Connecticut, and Arecibo,
They experimented with the effects of
"artificially induced ionospheric depletions on very low frequency
wave lengths, on equatorial plasma instabilities, and on low
frequency radio astronomical observations over Roberval, Quebec,
Kwajelein, in the Marshall Islands and Hobart, Tasmania" (Advanced
Space Research, Vo1.8, No. 1, 1988).
Shuttle Experiments (1985)
An innovative use of the Space Shuttle to perform space physics
experiments in earth orbit was launched, using the OMS injections of
"cause a sudden depletion in the
local plasma concentration, the creation of a so called
This artificially induced plasma
depletion can then be used to investigate other space phenomena,
such as the growth of the plasma instabilities or the modification
of radio propagation paths. The 47 second OMS burn of July 29, 1985,
produced the largest and most long-lived ionospheric hole to date,
dumping some 830 kg of exhaust into the ionosphere at sunset. A 6
second, 68 km OMS release above Connecticut in August 1985, produced
an airglow which covered over 400,000 square km.
During the 1980's, rocket launches globally numbered about 500 to
600 a year, peaking at 1500 in 1989. There were many more during the
Gulf War. The Shuttle is the largest of the solid fuel rockets, with
twin 45 meter boosters. All solid fuel rockets release large amounts
of hydrochloric acid in their exhaust, each Shuttle flight injecting
about 75 tons of ozone destroying chlorine into the stratosphere.
Those launched since 1992 inject even
more ozone-destroying chlorine, about 187 tons, into the
stratosphere (which contains the ozone layer).
In April 1986, just before the Chernobyl disaster, the US had a
failed hydrogen test at the Nevada Test Site called Mighty Oaks.
This test, conducted far underground, consisted of a hydrogen bomb
explosion in one chamber, with a leaded steel door to the chamber,
two meters thick, closing within milliseconds of the blast.
The door was to allow only the first
radioactive beam to escape into the "control room" in which
expensive instrumentation was located. The radiation was to be
captured as a weapon beam. The door failed to close as quickly as
planned, causing the radioactive gases and debris to fill the
control room, destroying millions of dollars worth of equipment. The
experiment was part of a program to develop X-ray and particle beam
The radioactive releases from Mighty
Oaks were vented, under a "licensed venting" and were likely
responsible for many of the North American nuclear fallout reports
in May 1986, which were attributed to the Chernobyl disaster.
According to Defense News, April 13 - 19, 1992, the US deployed an
electromagnetic pulse weapon (EMP) in Desert Storm,
designed to mimic the flash of electricity from a nuclear bomb. The
Sandia National Laboratory had built a 23,000 square meter
laboratory on the Kirkland Air Force Base, 1989, to house the Hermes
II electron beam generator capable of producing 20 Trillion Watt
pulses lasting 20 billionths to 25 billionths of a second.
This X-ray simulator is called a
Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator. A stream of electrons hitting a
metal plate can produce a pulsed X-ray or gamma ray. Hermes II had
produced electron beams since 1974.
These devises were apparently tested
during the Gulf War, although detailed information on them is
High Frequency Active Auroral
Research Program, HAARP (1993)
The HAARP Program is jointly managed by the US Air Force and the US
Navy, and is based in Gakona, Alaska. It is designed to "understand,
simulate and control ionospheric processes that might alter the
performance of communication and surveillance systems."
The HAARP system intends to beam 3.6
Gigawatts of effective radiated power of high frequency radio energy
into the ionosphere in order to:
Generate extremely low frequency
(ELF) waves for communicating with submerged submarines
Conduct geophysical probes to
identify and characterize natural ionospheric processes so that
techniques can be developed to mitigate or control them
Generate ionospheric lenses to focus
large amounts of high frequency energy, thus providing a means
of triggering ionospheric processes that potentially could be
exploited for Department of Defense purposes
Electron acceleration for
infrared (IR) and other optical emissions which could
be used to control radio wave propagation properties
Generate geomagnetic field aligned
ionization to control the reflection/scattering properties of
Use oblique heating to produce
effects on radio wave propagation, thus broadening the potential
military applications of ionospheric enhancement technology
Poker Flat Rocket
Launch (1968 to Present)
The Poker Flat Research Range is located about 50 km North of
Fairbanks, Alaska, and it was established in 1968. It is operated by
the Geophysical Institute with the University of Alaska Fairbanks,
under NASA contract. About 250 major rocket launches have taken
place from this site, and in 1994, a 16 meter long rocket was
launched to help NASA "understand chemical reactions in the
atmosphere associated with global climate change."
Similar experiments, but using
Chemical Release Modules (CRM), have been launched from
Churchill, Manitoba. In 1980, Brian Whelan's "Project Waterhole"
disrupted an aurora borealis, bringing it to a temporary halt. In
February 1983, the chemical released into the ionosphere caused an
aurora borealis over Churchill. In March 1989, two Black Brant X's
and two Nike Orion rockets were launched over Canada, releasing
barium at high altitudes and creating artificial clouds.
These Churchill artificial clouds were
observed from as far away as Los Alamos, New Mexico.
The US Navy has also been carrying on High Power Auroral
Stimulation (HIPAS) research in Alaska. Through a series
of wires and a 15 meter antenna, they have beamed high intensity
signals into the upper atmosphere, generating a controlled
disturbance in the ionosphere. As early as 1992, the Navy talked of
creating 10 kilometer long antennas in the sky to generate
extremely low frequency (ELF) waves needed for
communicating with submarines.
Another purpose of these experiments is
to study the Aurora Borealis, called by some an outdoor plasma lab
for studying the principles of fusion. Shuttle flights are now able
to generate auroras with an electron beam. On November 10, 1991, and
aurora borealis appeared in the Texas sky for the first time ever
recorded, and it was seen by people as far away as Ohio and Utah,
Nebraska and Missouri.
The sky contained "Christmas colors" and
various scientists were quick to blame it on solar activity.
However, when pressed most would admit that the ionosphere must have
been weakened at the time, so that the electrically charged particle
hitting the earth's atmosphere created the highly visible light
called airglow. These charged particles are normally pulled
northwards by the earth's magnetic forces, to the magnetic north
The Northern Lights, as the aurora
borealis is called, normally occurs in the vortex at the pole where
the energetic particles, directed by the magnetic force lines, are
It would be rash to assume that
HAARP is an isolated experiment which would not be expanded. It
is related to fifty years of intensive and increasingly
destructive programs to understand and control the upper
It would be rash not to associate
HAARP with the space laboratory construction which is separately
being planned by the United States. HAARP is an integral part of
a long history of space research and development of a deliberate
The military implications of
combining these projects is alarming.
Basic to this project is control of
communications, both disruption and reliability in hostile
environments. The power wielded by such control is obvious.
The ability of the HAARP/Spacelab/rocket combination to deliver very large amount of energy,
comparable to a nuclear bomb, anywhere on earth via laser and
particle beams, are frightening.
The project is likely to be "sold"
to the public as a space shield against incoming weapons, or,
for the more gullible, a devise for repairing the ozone layer.
C.L. Herzenberg, Physics and
Society, April 1994.
R. Williams, Physics and
Society, April 1988.
B. Eastlund, Microwave News,
W. Kofinan and C. Lathuillere,
Geophysical Research Letters, Vol 14, No. 11, pp 1158-1161,
November 1987 (Includes French experiments at EISCAT).
G. Metz and F.W. Perkins.
Ionospheric Modification Theory: Past Present and Future,
Radio Science, Vo1.9, No. 11, pp 885 -888, November 1974.