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Smart Rocks was upgraded in 1988 and renamed “Brilliant Pebbles.” In addition to eliminating incoming nuclear warheads, each component of the 4,000-satellite constellation was designed to protect U.S. space-based assets, attack its Soviet counterparts, or sacrifice itself in a one-time spy mission. The interceptor satellites would be controlled from the ground, but would also have the ability to communicate among themselves and attack In 1993, however, the Clinton Administration delivered a severe blow to U.S. missile defense by systematically eliminating Brilliant Pebbles through a series of budget cuts. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin stated his objective as “taking the star out of Star Wars.their targets autonomously. At a projected cost of $11 billion for the first 1,000 interceptors, Brilliant Pebbles presented a cost-efficient means of countering the Soviet menace.
In 1991, following several years of inner turmoil, the Soviet Union imploded. Despite the end of the Cold War, Brilliant Pebbles remained an essential part of the U.S. missile defense architecture. That same year, computer simulations demonstrated that, if it had been deployed during the Persian Gulf War, Brilliant Pebbles would have shot down every Scud missile launched by Saddam Hussein, including the salvo attack on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Following the Middle East crisis, Brilliant Pebbles was enhanced to give its interceptors the ability to swoop down into the atmosphere, thus improving its overall effectiveness against Scuds and cruise missiles.
In 1993, however, the Clinton Administration delivered a severe blow to U.S. missile defense by systematically eliminating Brilliant Pebbles through a series of budget cuts. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin stated his objective as “taking the star out of Star Wars. Yet the technology itself would continue to be tested, for a short time: one year later, NASA launched a deep-space probe known as “Clementine,” which had been built using first-generation Brilliant Pebbles technology. Clementine successfully mapped the entire surface of the Moon. The mission, which cost $80 million, effectively “space qualified” Brilliant Pebbles’ hardware.