Robots building communications arrays hundreds of miles above the Earth. Electromagnetic pulses cleansing space of nuclear explosions' lethal effects. Raw materials turning themselves into orbiting sensors.That's just a small sample of what Darpa, the Pentagon's far-out research arm, has in store for space.The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a well-deserved reputation for tackling the quasi-fictional. But at the agency's three-day confab in Anaheim -- where proposals for thinking computers, wall-crawling soldiers and unmanned armies are just about ho-hum -- the ideas for space may be the wildest of all.The United States' military leans more and more on satellites to guide its bombs, spy on its foes and route its top-secret messages. But, for the first time in decades, America doesn't have space to itself. And that has the Pentagon spooked."The world scene is changing. We have to quickly shift gears in space," Darpa official Gary Graham told an invited audience of 2,200 at the DarpaTech conference. "Many nations have growing capabilities in imaging and communications and navigation. The Chinese have a manned space program."The way to counter this perceived threat, according to the research agency, is to make building and launching American satellites much, much cheaper and easier. Right now, the United States sends only a few dozen satellites into orbit each year. Darpa program manager Tim Grayson wants "operating in the spaceways (to) become as routine as traveling the airways."My Wired News article has details.
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