I was reading through PopSci.com’s “The World’s Spookiest Weapons” earlier and, while all weapons were terrifying to say the least, one struck me as particulary spooky: The Rods from God. Like something from Star Wars, these tungsten rods are shot by a satellite which uses the Earth’s gravity to pull the rods at a whopping 36 000 feet per second (about 11 000 metres per second, or 40 000 kilometres per hour) towards some unfortunate target.
This one would be the hands down winner for spookiest name if the award weren’t just a consolation prize—the Rods from God will do just fine competing for the spookiest weapon, regardless of name, thank you very much. They are a kinetic energy device like the railgun, but instead of using electricity to achieve destructive velocities, they use gravity. The still-hypothetical system would be comprised of two satellites in orbit around the Earth. One would house the communications and targeting hardware, while the other would house the rods themselves, each up to a foot in diameter and twenty feet long. To fire, they would simply be released and allowed to fall back to Earth (with a bit of remote guidance). By the time they reached the surface, they’d be traveling at a speed of 36,000 feet per second and carry the destructive force of a nuclear warhead, only with none of the radioactive fallout.
Simply terrifying. Interested to learn more about these massive pins that were to be hurled from the stars, I consulted Wikipedia for more. However, in an unlikely situation, Wikipedia lacked masses of information on these death needles, as part of their aptly named “Kinetic Bombardment” page:
“Rods from God” is a space-based kinetic energy weapon that has been discussed since the early 1980s.
They would conceivably be particularly well adapted to penetrate hardened targets, such as underground nuclear facilities.
There are major difficulties involved. One of them is where to position the rods. They need to be high enough to deliver enough energy upon impact, but not so high that they vaporize in Earth’s atmosphere. The other difficulty is the number of satellites that would be required to cover a material portion of the Earth.
So there you go. Terrifying. Read more about Rods from God at PopSci.com.