We see artificial satellite based lasers or other weapons (which fire on the surface of the planet around which satellite is revolving) all the time. Few examples are in my mind at this time:

  • Satellite laser used in Batman Beyond: Return to the Joker (2000) cartoon movie.

  • Project Veronica used in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) movie.

  • Earth's satellite defense system used in Guardians of the Galaxy (2015 - ) TV cartoon.

Which Sci-Fi work introduced the idea of satellite-based weapons?

Note: A ship which can move freely and fires on the ground after entering the orbit won't be counted.

  • The question in the title says "satellite-based" but the body refers to "artificial satellite based" weapons. Can we assume that "satellite-based" means "artificial satellite based", i.e., weapons based on the Moon don't count? And the weapons don't have to be rays, do they? Do orbiting bombs count?
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 5:21
  • Yeah, nuking from the orbit would be counted. And yes, artificial satellites only. No Moon.
    – user931
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 5:27
  • 3
    Answers should be from no later than the 1940s, seeing as Heinlein had orbiting nukes e.g. in Space Cadet (1948).
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 5:42

2 Answers 2


My answer to a more recent similar question may be applicable to this as well:

If you count orbiting weapons that just concentrate the sun's energy using mirrors/lenses (like using a magnifying glass to burn ants), there's a 1927 example mentioned on p. 260 of the article "The Historical Death Ray and Science Fiction in the 1920s and 1930s":

The 1927 German novel Flammen aus dem Weltraum [Flames from Space] by Karl August von Laffert describes a space station mounted with huge reflectors that act as a sun gun, anticipating, or perhaps inspiring, the actual secret German project at Hillersleben mentioned previously.

Searching a little for this title, I think the article misprinted the name, it should be Flammen aus dem Weltenraum. And as for the "actual secret German project" they mention, see here and here for more details.

The Project Rho page on "Orbital Planetary Attack" includes this section which gives plenty of other examples of stories involving this type of weapon from the early 20th century, though none earlier than 1927.


1948: Space Cadet, a novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

From the Wikipedia summary:

The Space Patrol is entrusted by the worldwide Earth government with a monopoly on nuclear weapons, and is expected to maintain a credible threat to drop them on Earth from orbit as a deterrent against breaking the peace. Matt, on a visit home, causes a family argument when his parents refuse to believe that the Patrol—and especially their son—would actually bomb Iowa.

Excerpt (transcribed from the 1978 Ballantine Books edition, fourth printing, October 1985):

One night at dinner his father had asked him to describe just what it was that the Nobel did in circum-Terra patrol. He had tried to oblige. "After we lift off from Moon Base we head for Terra on an elliptical orbit. As we approach the Earth we brake gradually and throw her into a tight circular orbit from pole to pole—"

"Why pole to pole? Why not around the equator?"

"Because, you see, the atom-bomb rockets are in pole-to-pole orbits. That's the only way they can cover the whole globe. If they were circling around the equator—"

"I understand that," his father had interrupted, "but your purpose, as I understand it, is to inspect the bomb rockets. If you—your ship—circled around the equator, you could just wait for the bomb rockets to come past."

"You may understand it," his mother had said to his father, but I don't."

Matt looked from one to the other, wondering which one to answer—and how. "One at a time . . . please," he protested. "Dad, we can't just intercept the bombs; we have to sneak up on them, match orbits until you are right alongside it and making exactly the same course and speed. Then you bring the bomb inside the ship and inspect it."

"And of what does that inspection consist?"

[. . . .]

"Clear enough. And these corrections have to be made often enough that a ship is kept busy just inspecting them?"

"Well, no, Dad, we inspect oftener than we really have to—but it keeps the ship and the crew busy. Keeps it from getting monotonous. Anyhow, frequent inspections keep you on the safe side."

"Sounds like a waste of taxpayers' money to inspect too often."

"But you don't understand—we're not there to inspect; we're there to patrol. The inspection ship is the ship that would deliver an attack in case anybody started acting up. We have to stay on patrol until the next ship relieves us, so we might as well inspect. Granted that you can bomb a city from Moon Base, you can do a better, more accurate job, with less chance of hitting the wrong people, from close by."

  • What about Satellite laser?
    – user931
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 2:13
  • I don't think there are any lasers in Space Cadet. (It's been a very long time since I read it, and I don't have an electronic copy.) Lasers hadn't been invented yet in 1948, even (as far as I know) as a science fiction concept. Of course there were ray weapons aplenty, e.g. in Doc Smith's yarns, but I think the "harder" science fiction writers like Heinlein tended to avoid them.
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 2:19

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