futuristic space weapons
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DARPA Wants Futuristic Space Weapons That Don’t Currently Exist

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting proposals for advanced, futuristic space weapons that don’t currently exist. Typically, only a few contractors develop advanced weapons for the U.S. government due to security and classification concerns, but DARPA says they are bypassing that usual bottleneck by requesting concept proposals of futuristic space weapons from the open marketplace.

21st Century Warfare Increasingly Reliant on Novel Weapon Concepts

In the history of warfare, advancements in weaponry and other technology have often been the difference between victory and defeat. In recent years, advancements in hypersonic missiles, smart munitions, UAVs, directed energy weapons, including lasers, and many other futuristic concepts have increasingly raised the bar for the world’s militaries.

Now, the government organization that is notorious for pushing the envelope on advanced weapon designs says they are opening up its eyes and ears to the broader marketplace in hopes of funding and developing futuristic space weapons that don’t currently exist.

All Ideas Are Welcome in DARPA’s Futuristic Space Weapons Hunt

“Tremendous innovation is happening in the commercial space industry, yet long procurement timelines and a relatively small number of cleared companies can limit adoption of those new innovations in defense and government space initiatives,” said Air Force Maj. Michael “Orbit” Nayak, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, in the press release requesting proposals.

This classification situation, says Nayak, means that “potentially revolutionary concepts” for space weapons and other space-based national security technologies “go untapped.”

As a result, DARPA has issued this request to a much broader set of companies in hopes of finding that game-changing technology that can offer a major strategic advantage over adversarial nations.

“We’re looking to flip that script so that innovators who can provide the best ideas for the many unanswered questions and unique potential of the space domain have a seat at the table,” explained Nayak. “We want to find solutions we didn’t even know we needed to establish and maintain superiority in space.”

One interesting aspect of this proposal is the timing of this announcement, which comes days after a story by Chinese media that claims researchers in that country had developed a futuristic space weapon they are calling a “force gun” after the fictional force in the Star Wars movies.

According to that report, which was covered by The Debrief, the primary component of the frightening force gun is described as a “magnetized coaxial gun” that can generate repeating waves of hot, electron-dense, high-energy gas in the form of plasma rings. When these plasma rings are shot from the force gun at the rate of eight per second (and purportedly travel at 10,000 meters per second, which is twenty times the speed of sound), they inherit an electric current, which then generates a magnetic field that is in opposition to the magnetic field being created during the plasma discharge.

The result is a weapon that could be used to de-orbit satellites, crash enemy spacecraft into each other, or even capture enemy craft like a Star Trek “tractor beam.” As noted, it is a lone report from a state-owned media source. But if true, such a force gun offers Chinese forces a distinct advantage over the budding U.S. Space Force. It is just this type of advantage that DARPA is trying to gain.

Deadline for Futuristic Space Weapons Proposals is October 1st

In the press release issued by DARPA, they will conduct an initial round of “concept evaluations” on proposals received by 5 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 1, 2023. After that round, DARPA says they will continue to accept and evaluate proposals “on a rolling basis” until they reach the final deadline of 5 p.m. Eastern time on March 15, 2024.

“DARPA is seeking innovative concepts from small businesses and nontraditional defense contractors in the technical domain of space superiority as the second topic issued under the agency’s Bringing Classified Innovation to Defense and Government Systems (BRIDGES) initiative,” they conclude. “With this topic, the agency is looking for new methods and technologies that may provide warfighters with disruptive options for protecting and defending space systems across the competition continuum.”

Christopher Plain is a Science Fiction and Fantasy novelist and Head Science Writer at The Debrief. Follow and connect with him on X, learn about his books at plainfiction.com, or email him directly at christopher@thedebrief.org.