We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a national ballistic missile defense program for the United States launched by a speech by President Ronald Reagan on 23 March 1983. Reagan said, "I call upon the scientific community who gave us nuclear weapons to turn their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." This has been referred to as the "Star Wars" speech, as it was initially detracted as science fiction and a waste of money. The Strategic Defense Initiative eventually came to be known colloquially as the Star Wars.

The SDI was shut down in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, and replaced by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), putting a greater emphasis on regional rather than national missile defense. Over 10 years, the Strategic Defense Initiative spent $25 billion US Dollars on research and testing, but never achieved its objective of producing a reliable anti-missile system. Whether the SDI should ever have been launched was an extremely controversial and politicized topic at the time, and continues to be today.

The initial impetus for the SDI was when Reagan heard that a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Peter L. Hagelstein, had designed a nuclear explosion-powered x-ray laser. National strategists imagined a curtain of such lasers, initially mounted on missiles, then on satellites, as an impenetrable wall to stop any incoming ballistic missiles. However, when this design was actually tested, just three days after the Star Wars speech, it was a total failure.

But the SDI was not only about the x-ray laser design, and numerous other approaches were considered and researched over the next decade. The chemical laser MIRACL (Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser) was built in 1985 and used to successfully shoot down a Titan booster during a test. Investigations into hypervelocity rail guns led to improvements in the technology, but nothing that could have feasibly prevented a swarm of incoming Soviet missiles. A system of space-based, watermelon-sized mini-missiles called Brilliant Pebbles was called "the crowning achievement of the Strategic Defense Initiative," although it was never deployed, and the project was canceled in 1994.

The modern opinion of the success of the SDI is mixed. Advocates say the program resulted in many important technological spin-offs, such as battle lasers and cameras for satellites. Some even go so far to say that the collapse of the Soviet Union can be attributed to fear over the Strategic Defense Initiative. Detractors say the whole program was unfeasible from the start, and the money would have been better spent on individually targeted projects outside the auspices of a missile defense program. United States national missile defense research continues today, and tests have shown some limited success. At best, such systems would likely shoot down no more than a few dozen missiles, while in a true nuclear war, hundreds if not thousands of nuclear missiles would be launched. Perhaps research will eventually produce a highly capable anti-missile system, but that day is not yet here.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.