Air Force Col. Garry Schnelzer, speaking on behalf of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), predicted that the SDI system could be developed but said a thorough cost analysis of the program is years away.
In the second of a 10-part lecture series on the military uses of space sponsored by the Harvard Space Research Group, Schnelzer, director of Sensors, one of the five branches of the SDIO, said that by the early 1990s the government will have enough information to decide whether to build or scrap the "Star Wars" defense system.
SDIO, a research commission appointed by the President, is trying to determine how an effective system could be built at an acceptable cost.
Schnelzer spoke on how his group will research possible ways of locating and tracking incoming missiles, and said that a "multi-layered" ground-, air-and space-based tracking system could make SDI a reality. He estimated it might take somewhere in the range of one-half million to one million satellites to protect vital areas of the United States.
Many scientists have protested that such a system is economically and practically unfeasible.
He said several problems still awaiting resolution include: distinguishing real warheads from decoys; researching new manufacturing technology that would keep costs down; and determining how to build satellites that could withstand the "hostile conditions" which would occur during a nuclear war.
On Nov. 12, the Harvard Space Research Group, an organization founded six years ago to bring together space enthusiasts, will present Gen. Robert R. Rankine speaking on the development of weapons which would destroy missiles tracked by the multi-layered tracking system.