"In war, one should seek to take and hold the high ground. From there, the enemy's movements are clearly visible, and he will struggle just to reach you, let alone fight you. High orbit is the highest ground there is."
When it absolutely, positively, has to be destroyed on time, nothing beats your own remote-controlled, satellite-mounted laser cannon.
A variation of the Wave Motion Gun
, Kill Sats have the added advantage that you don't need to be anywhere near either the weapon or the target. Instead, you can fire it from the safety of your headquarters: your satellite will move into position and unleash a shiny descending Pillar of Light
on your unsuspecting target. Power/accuracy on Kill Sats vary, ranging from "lone vehicle" to "entire building" to (rarely) "town or small city." Planet busters
are another category entirely, as firing them remotely from anywhere
on the surface is inadvisable.
Since it's considered poor form to snipe your opponent from such a risk-free distance, Kill Sats are generally the realm of villains. So-called good guys who resort to these
will, at best, fail miserably
. If Everything Is Online
in their world (and you know it is), there is always the risk of control falling into the wrong hands.
In video games, Kill Sats are frequently used by the good guys (ie the player) but usually requiring some sort of targeting system on the ground in the vicinity of the target (distance varies from a few meters to a few miles). If the good guys do
have one, its precision and accuracy are emphasized, often by providing the bad guys with a less precise weapon of equivalent power (such as a nuclear missile).
Of course, in the hands of either side, it would end the story in a hurry if these could be used repeatedly — none of the opposing side could poke their nose into the open without risking vaporization. Therefore:
- It's prohibitively expensive, time-intensive, and/or just plain difficult to get it moved over the target and charged, making it something that can't be used regularly or that can be avoided.
- It Only Works Once, because there was only enough power/ammo to fire it the one time, or because the heroes sabotage it or its control system before the villains can shoot again.
- Some combination of the above two, the former giving the opportunity for the heroes to do the latter.
- Its firepower is limited and slow, you can pick off soldiers or armored vehicles one at a time, but you can't use it to turn back a full-scale invasion. Thus, usage is reserved for important high-value targets. Or the exact opposite, it's a Weapon of Mass Destruction that can't even be considered until the Godzilla Threshold is reached.
Alternatively, it's not active at all yet, in which case the story centers around making sure it never gets off its first shot. In these cases it generally leans toward the powerful end of the scale
Kill Sats sometimes display the orbital properties of their more benign counterparts, the Spy Satellites
, able to move themselves over any target in record time and then park themselves there to get off as many shots as they please. More often, thankfully, the writers actually pay attention to how satellites work and incorporate that into the plot ("we've got two hours to destroy the control center before the satellite is in position over our headquarters!")
Any villain seeking to get their private space program off the ground (pun most definitely intended) is probably doing so to put one of these bad boys in orbit (never mind what it actually gets used for
). Spy villains love these things. The Ancient Conspiracy
may already have a full network of Death Ray
Sats secretly in orbit, but they're careful about using it regularly, lest someone catch on.
The Standard Sci-Fi Fleet
can and will take this Up to Eleven
, with the heavier ships turning their guns on a helpless planet below.
An early test fire of these may create the Doomed Hometown
The trope name is a parody of "TelSat", the TV satellite system.
A popular way to rain Death from Above
, and a subtrope of Orbital Bombardment
. Compare Wave Motion Gun
, Big Bulky Bomb
, Doomsday Device
, and There Is No Kill Like Overkill
This item is available in the Trope Co. Catalog.
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Anime & Manga
- Parodied in Heaven's Lost Property, where Ikaros acts as a Peeping-Sat with a mirror (think Periscope). It then carried a karate-chop back (still through being reflected by the mirror), making it act as a Kill-Sat in reverse
- SOL in AKIRA. Used to sucker punch a rampaging Tetsuo, incinerating his right arm in one shot. The reason it didn't get a second chance varies: in the anime, Tetsuo flies up and crushes it while the military is still recalibrating; in the manga, he just runs away and goes into hiding, leaving the satellite available for the Colonel to use against him in the final battle.
- Battle Programmer Shirase has a technique called "Three Sisters Deathblow", where three scrapped Cosmos satellites are programmed for re-entry. The first two serve to shield the third from atmospheric heat, so that it can enter the atmosphere intact and precisely hit a target on the ground (or sea).
- One of the major subplots in the original Bubblegum Crisis revolved around a MacGuffin which would allow a Boomer to gain control of the military's network of Kill Sats.
- Space Battleship Yamato had a few of these. The first series had a series of Gamilon mirror satellites working in conjunction with a planet-based BFG, and the second had a proper kill sat in Earth orbit.
- The first anime Kill Sat was in Cat's Eye, but they got the idea from Diamonds Are Forever.
- The Damocles from Code Geass. Technically not a satellite but a floating fortress armed with a cannon that shoots FLEIA warheads, but since it was supposed to be flown out of the atmosphere and placed on a geosynchronous orbit, it fulfills all the criteria for a Kill Sat (it's in space, it rains doom on people).
- The Cowboy Bebop episode "Jamming With Edward" featured a network of satellite-mounted lasers. They were built in an attempt to reduce the severity of meteor showers after the moon was destroyed by the hyperspace gate explosion. During the story, an A.I. which evolved in the network used them to carve graffiti on unoccupied areas of the planet surface to recreate the Nasca Lines. And then automated defense programs activated when Spike came to collect a bounty on it and tried to blast his fighter...
- Mikawa Kai uses a NASA Kill Sat in an effort to destroy the "Terminator" in Seto no Hanayome.
- In Great Mazinger -the sequel of Mazinger Z-, Great Marshall of Hell fabricated a massive lens of ice orbited around Earth and worked like a Kill Sat by focusing sunrays in one single point and blasting it with a massive, hot-melting heat ray. It appeared only in one of the manga continuities, though.
- Used in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. Especially impressive considering the series takes place in the 19th century (the satellite was Atlantean technology).
- Jiro from Hajimete No A Ku has one, on top of that it has ridiculously accurate aim, able to shoot glasses of the heroines face without hurting her.
- The original Sol Bianca OAV cheats a little, when Feb hides herself on an orbiting Space Ring with a very long-ranged laser sniper rifle to help her friends escape from their own execution on the planet below.
- Gall Force ups the scale considerably with a planet-sized energy cannon orbiting the sun.
- Artemis, the trump card for the Searrs Foundation in Mai-HiME, is actually a meaningfully-named gigantic Mon in orbit.
- A pin-point precise version of this goes haywire in the All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OAV.
- The Radam-occupied Orbital Ring around Earth in Tekkaman Blade is used for orbital bombardment in several episodes.
- Gintama, naturally, featured a comedic variation: Otae actually uses one of these in an episode as protection against Kondou stalking outside her dojo, along with spiked fences and pratfalls.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion included a Kill Sat angel. Eva being Eva, it fired a Mind Rape beam at you to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Asuka was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of said beam, and needless to say, the results were not pretty.
- A different Angel started out dropping bits of itself on the city, gradually target-tracking onto the geofront, at which point the whole thing came crashing down and the Evas have to run up and catch it.
- Surely Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's Anti-Spiral-controlled Cathedral Terra counts? Okay, the heroes nip its firing sequence in the bud, but it had several hundred (if not thousand) massive death rays trained on the planet, and it was (disguised as) the planet's natural satellite at the time.
- The AMP in Silent Möbius has access to a Kill Sat, which seems to be privately owned by member Lebia Maverick. It also acts as her second brain, providing a ridiculous amount of extra data storage. Its name is Donald.
- In the final episode of Mnemosyne, Techno Wizard Mimi hijacks a Kill Sat belonging to her friend's company and uses it in an attempt to stop the Big Bad's plan. She fails.
- Fairy Tail features the Etherion, a magical version of this. It takes about an hour for the Council to charge it up, and then it blasts down with the power of more than two billion, seven hundred million ideas of magical energy, which is about equivalent to the combined magical energies of all the wizards on the continent. According to one member of the Council, its destructive power is sufficient to wipe an entire country off the face of the planet. Naturally, the arc's villain absorbs the magical energy so he can use it as a power battery for his spell to resurrect history's most infamous black wizard.
- The Death-Para Machine from Transformers Super God Masterforce, which had the power to destroy Earth's ozone layer.
- Utawarerumono. You won't know where it is though... Until episode 24, when Mikoto/Kamyu uses a powerful magic to obliterate a country. The next episode, we are given a glimpse on how it actually works... arrays of satellite-mounted beam cannons.
- Kill Sats show up in many Gundam series, although they aren't quite as common as the Colony Drop.
- Mobile Suit Gundam has the Solar Ray.
- Zeta Gundam has the Gryps Colony Laser.
- Victory Gundam has the Keilas Guilie... and it is still around in Turn A Gundam.
- Gundam Wing has the Space Fortress Barge and Space Fortress Libra.
- Gundam X also has a colony laser.
- Gundam SEED has the GENESIS.
- Gundam SEED Destiny has the Requiem and the Neo-GENESIS.
- Gundam 00 has the Memento Mori. Both of them.
- According to the backstory given in the original Gundam novels, the reason space colonization was needed was due to the Federation bombarding the Earth with kill sats entirely by accident. They tried to solve the world's energy problems with solar power satellites, but miscalculated the power of the microwave beams used to transmit the energy to the surface and almost burned off the entire atmosphere.
- Getter Robo features two of these, in Humongous Mecha form. The first, from the Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo OVA dispenses countless meteorites over North America, some of which are so large that they function as drop pods for other Humongous Mecha. The second is in the Getter Robo Go manga, and is of the laser variety. Though it can apparently fire multiple times in succession.
- Macross Plus reveals that, decades after Space War I, Earth has upgraded its defenses with a network of hundreds of thousands of densely-packed, automated Kill Sats that serve a dual purpose: vaporize orbital debris before it falls into the atmosphere, and discouraging invasion from external forces. When Isamu has to navigate this network and force his way into Earth, his only hope is to shoot down a couple of communication sats, hide among the falling debris, and pray. His companion has so little faith in their chances he just shuts himself off into hibernation.
- On that subject, the conclusion to Space War I: the Main Zentraedi Fleet folds in and the first thing they do is shoot the Earth with several million (Not Hyperbole) Wave Motion Guns, turning most the surface into an arid wasteland and exterminating 90% of the human population.
- Dancougar handles this differently; the Kill Sat hits the sword of the titular machine, creating a gigantic laser sword for it to use.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Virtual Nightmare filler arc, Gozaboro Kaiba's former right-hand man Lecter who takes the form of Jinzo summons, a monster called Satellite Cannon, which is quite a pain to Kaiba until he finally summons BEWD and destroys it. (Lector hints in the original version that Gozaburo was working on a real version of a Kill Sat before he was ousted from his position.)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX — Securing the two keys of one of these was plot for the last third of the second season. Coincidentally, its owner duels with a deck built around his veritable love for Kill Sats, not only using Satellite Cannon but a much larger Fusion of three of them.
- In Najica Blitz Tactics, one of the android girls actually is the remote control for a Kill Sat, making a fair grab for the sexiest use of this trope in fiction.
- In Eureka Seven, Dewey Novak fires one called "Oratorio #8" once at the Scab Coral to make a hole for TheEND to fly through, and again to target the beacon TheEND placed on the Control Cluster. After the second shot, the thing self-destructed and STILL rained death down on the poor planet with its highly explosive debris.
- Shaman King has one of these which is used against the main villain Hao Asakura, but he is unhurt by it. It was also detrimental for the other shaman as it caused the world to become aware of their presence on the island.
- There's one in the Zoids: New Century series, as a side function of the Judge satellite. While it doesn't usually come up because the enemy uses Dark Judges, which skew the battle in their favor, in one specific instance there's a regular Judge on the battlefield and the bad guys ignore him completely, prompting him to call down a barrage that completely frags the remaining enemies and their Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
- Near the end of the series during a tournament, the Backdraft Group calls down a whole bunch of different Dark Judges. As they're defeated on the ground, the real judging authority has a very large satellite covered in gun turrets that blows the satellites out of the sky.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima! Chachamaru's artifact is this. And it's shaped like a cat.
- El-Hazard: The Magnificent World arguably has two: Ifurita, a Miniature Death Star With Breasts, and the Eye of God, a superweapon which steps up the game by being able to selectively destroy a planet.
- Wormhole Driver from The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye is an old (but still fully operational) Kill Sat capable of creating Black Holes on top of the targeted area (which means that depending on the power used in such attack it can most likely destroy anything up to the entire planet)
- The GHQ's satellite laser "Leucocyte" in Guilty Crown. All 256 of them. Or rather, all three of them, and two of them were destroyed in episode 6. The 256 number was a bluff pulled by a guy with massive steel balls, and the U.N. bought it. The last remaining satellite was not in a position to deal any damage.
- Fate Prototype brings us Archer: his twin swords join to form a bow, yet the arrow fired from the bow itself is nothing more than a targeting beacon for a magical version of this trope.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes featured two variants of Kill Sat, both of which are designed as space-based defences: the giant Iserlohn Fortress occupying an important choke-point in the Imperial frontier and the Artemis Necklace network of battle-satellites orbiting around the Alliance capital planet.
- Saya from Onidere has access to a Kill Sat that strikes her father every time she says a phrase. However her father is so tough that despite destroying his house he doesn't even notice it.
- Lupin III: Travels of Marco Polo – Another Page: Zeal, Bernardo’s satellite-based laser weapon, which incinerates everything it touches.
- The final issue of the Global Frequency comic is based around a preset plan by the US government to cause a population reduction by blasting a few major cities with Kill Sats. These are kinetic harpoons, a single shot weapon mostly by virtue of being a fancy orbiting crossbow that fires an artificial diamond at enough speed that the kinetic energy goes off like a nuke when it strikes the ground.
- A kinetic harpoon also appears in Blackhawks, though this one is armed with bunches of tungsten rods. Wildman is in love with the concept — "Why spend all the money and resources building a laser or a missile when an inert object traveling at Mach Ten does the same amount of damage?"
- The last Story Arc of the original Grendel series features the Sun-Disk, a superweapon used only once (to level Japan and and a future cold war), before its creator disables it and dies.
- Zodon's 'modifications' to the lunar lander in PS238.
- An orbital particle beam cannon shows up in Planetary.
- The Marvel Comics version of G.I. Joe had a kill sat with the command centre hidden in the Chrysler Building. The IDW series that carries on the Marvel continuity also uses it.
- Batman: The rogue Brother Eye satellite that Batman built can be used as a kill sat, it even has the A.I necessary to use and control all of it's functions(yes, even the really deadly ones) on it's own, which sucks for Earth.
- A variation of Kill Sats appeared in the All Things Probable story: A Friend in Darkness. The villains of the story used a machine to seize control of the world's communication satellites and use them to channel a pertrfication power across the world to create an army of Living Statues.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has an image macro titled "Hate Detected. Firing The Orbital Friendship Cannon. (It's not actually a Kill Sat though, just Speed Lines combined with Mundane Made Awesome). This fanvid, however, plays it straight.
- In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Kyon's Morph Weapons can assemble into a Kill Sat called "Spear the Gungnir".
- During The Emiya Clan Christmas Special Zelretch is shown to have a orbital railgun, in the shape of a giant yellow smiley face. It's used to great effect.
- In the crossover story The Bridge, an upgraded version of Dimension Tide from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus pops back up. It does land a shot and manages to net Godzilla jr., Mothra, Destroyah, Anguirus, Rodan, and Spacegodzilla all in one hit.... And transports them to Equestria instead of killing them. And then the Big Bad hijacked control of it to send him and his forces after them
Films — Animated
- The Zeus space cannon in Final Fantasy The Spirits Within.
- In Antz, a kid with a magnifying glass functions as the insect-sized version of this. He vaporizes one soldier ant before chasing the protagonists down with a beam of sunlight. They get away, but end up hopelessly lost in the process.
- This is how Megamind actually kills MetroMan. Except that it turns out that MetroMan's Not Quite Dead...
- In the straight-to-video Megamind: The Buttom of Doom, the villain-turned-hero Megamind tries to sell off all his "evil" inventions at a garage sale, including the Kill Sat, which he markets as a barbeque starter. This is the only item he fails to sell. Of course, it turns out to be useful in the end when he has to destroy a Humongous Mecha he built a long time ago programmed to kill heroes, who he now happens to be.
Films — Live-Action
- The Death Star from Star Wars. It's a space station filled with millions of staff, stuffed to the bursting point with weaponry, and has a planet shattering superlaser built right into it!
- The Death Star is mobile and in fact there would be no point to it if it wasn't. It is basically a giant starship that is called a space station.
- there is no contradiction between something being mobile and also being a space station. any long term base for manned operations in space is a space station. the death star has a permanent staff of over 1,000,000, so it definitely qualifies as a long term base.
- Dr. Evil's "Alan Parsons Project" in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. He cheated a little by putting it on the Moon, but that's still in orbit.
- James Bond villains loved this one:
- Diabolical Mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld helped pioneer this trope in Diamonds Are Forever. Willard Whyte, a faintly disguised version of Howard Hughes, is a reclusive billionaire who supposedly put a satellite into orbit as part of his Aerospace operations, only to discover it was actually Blofeld, impersonating Whyte, who went on to use the satellite's ability to focus the sun's light into a coherent beam and thus fire a laser anywhere on earth to attack important locations such as nuclear missile launch facilities or nuclear submarines.
- Moonraker had a slight twist on it: Hugo Drax's Kill Sat was also an inhabited space station, where his master race would remain safe and sound while nerve gas wiped out the rest of humanity.
- The titular weapons in Goldeneye were single-shot EMP-based Kill Sats. The first one is used to cover up the theft of the satellite control codes by destroying the operations base. The Big Bad plotted to use the second one to knock out London (and all evidence of a grand electronic bank raid to be completed first), but was stopped by Bond and his Girl of the Movie, Natalya.
- The villain in Die Another Day makes an orbital mirror that doubles as a Kill Sat. Much like Blofeld's version, the weapon used diamonds to focus the energy.
- In Real Genius, the lead characters are duped by their college professor into building a laser which is intended as the main weapon for a Kill Sat. They retaliate by sabotaging the test to have it destroy the duplicitous professor's home. With popcorn.
- Technically, the weapon would be mounted on a shuttle, not on a satellite, as shown by the demo video at the start of the movie. It's still insta-death from orbit for anyone it hits though.
- The plot of the Steven Seagal movie Under Siege 2 revolves around a Diabolical Mastermind seizing control of a military Kill Sat and threatening to use it to blow up Washington, D.C. Bonus points are awarded since the Diabolical Mastermind was the one who had built the satellite for the government in the first place before faking his own death.
More bonus points are awarded for being a Kill Sat that shoots earthquakes. Extreme bonus points are awarded for being a Kill Sat that shoots earthquakes but still manages to destroy ostensibly high-flying bomber planes.
- In Godzilla vs. Megaguirus a satellite is used to attack Godzilla and barely manages to get off a shot on target before it burns up. The fact that it fired a solid projectile which took almost a minute to get to the ground against a notably fast-moving target makes one wonder why they bothered to put it orbit.
- The disaster movie Meteor features two satellites armed with over a dozen nuclear weapons. It turns out Sean Connery designed one to be a defense against asteroids, but they thought it would be better used against Russia.
- The protagonists in Space Cowboys go into space to fix what they're told is a communications satellite, only to find out it's an old Soviet Kill Sat armed with nuclear missiles and in danger of activating.
- The Narada's drill from Star Trek. It seems to blast some kind of epic fire rather than an actual laser, but it can punch straight to the core of a planet. This turns out to be problematic for Vulcan, as it allows the Romulans to drop a ball of black-hole-creating matter to the core and literally make it implode. Something like that in the hands of angry and "particularly troubled" Romulans? Oh sure, they get kinda woobie with the backstory, but that still ain't a happy situation.
- In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Soundwave's alt mode is that of a satellite. Instead of normal projectiles, however, he fires other Decepticons, notably his minion Ravage. And if his toy bio has any credence, he's hacked so many satellites that he could pretty much destroy human civilization if he got bored.
- The stolen MacGuffin in Escape from L.A. is a control for a Kill Sat.
- It's a control for a network of Kill Sats.
- Although it didn't make it into the final product, an early draft script of the Watchmen movie featured one of these. (None existed in the original comic.)
- Maximum Overdrive. At the end, the epilogue states that the alien mothership was destroyed by a Russian "weather satellite" equipped with a laser cannon and "Class IV Nuclear Missiles".
- G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Cobra's Zeus satellites which they use to break London like an egg.
- Want to know something scary? That appears to be a very accurate depiction of how such a system would function in reality.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5, "Endgame"; When Sheridan's forces arrive at Earth and easily overwhelm most of the remnants of EarthForce fleet, President Clark kills himself, after programming the planet's orbital defense system to take all of Earth with him. This means Sheridan's fleet must destroy the satellites before they fire.
- The rebuilt orbital defense system shows up again in "A Call to Arms", and this time manages to fire their Wave Motion Guns at the target, the Drakh fleet. The Drakh are obliterated... But, sadly, not in time to stop them from infecting Earth with their plague.
- The Expanded Universe has many other models from multiple factions. Honorable mention for capability and originality go to the the Abbai Alanti, the Orieni Skywatch and the Drazi Shodroma: where most models are just a large gun or missile launcher (or both) with thrusters for positioning and aiming, the Alanti, like most things put in space by the Abbai, has actual Deflector Shields, the Skywatch complements the laser cannons and missiles with kamikaze drones to ram enemy targets (a standard Orieni weapon), and the Shodroma packs the same Drazi-designed Wave Motion Gun of the Earth model (the blueprints of the weapon were given to Earth during the Earth-Minbari War as an apology for their inability to intervene and fight the Minbari).
- In The X-Files, the episode "Kill Switch" (written by William Gibson) centered around a network of Kill Sats, complete with a computer control system that developed its own ideas about how to use it.
- Stargate Verse
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Ethon", the Ori supply one of these to the Rand Protectorate, one of two feuding governments on the world of Tegalus. It ends up destroying Earth's first starship, the Prometheus.
- Also, before the Ori, a network of Kill Sats is deployed ostensibly as a defense against external threats, but gets turned on terrestrial targets anyway as a scheme to Take Over the World. By a main character. But it was All Just a Dream, intended to show him that You Are Not Ready.
- The Asurans use a Kill Sat against Atlantis on Stargate Atlantis. The Kill Sat itself is a big ship with a stargate embedded in it. The beam is fired on the Asuran homeworld through a stargate, and out the other onto Atlantis. The Expedition also uses one (though it's actually a space station, not a satellite) in order to destroy a Wraith hive ship while a fleet of Wraith is on its way to Atlantis in in the finale of the first season.
- A much earlier example is in the season 4 episode Absolute Power. The Harsesis (a human child born with the racial memories of The Goa'uld) gives Daniel a sample of that knowledge after warning him that "Evil is too strong". Daniel uses that knowledge to lead the construction of a network of kill sats intended to defend the Earth from The Goa'uld, but then takes sole control over it and destroys Moscow to prove his power and discourage retaliation. The entire thing was a dream given to him instead in order to teach him that Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.
- The 1978 Quatermass series (aka Quatermass IV or The Quatermass Conclusion) featured an alien device that lured people into small areas and then engulfed them in a column of light. True Believers assumed that the light was transporting them to a better planet. No such luck. It was actually a kind of nasty and insidious form of Kill Sat, only just to make things worse there wasn't an actual satellite that could be shot down. There was something that the Russians launched nuclear missiles at, but it didn't work.
- In the novelisation (by the scriptwriter) Quatermass theorises that it's a kind of energy field surrounding the Earth like a huge soap bubble. When it needs to fire it just concentrates its energy on one spot.
- The heroes of Angel are surprised and disturbed to find they have such a thing at their command (in the form of microwave laser satellites) after taking over Wolfram and Hart. Angel considers using them to wipe out all the bad guys rather than continue to live as a corporate drone.
- The Xindi weapon in Star Trek: Enterprise, which blasts a corridor of death from Florida to Venezuela in literal scorched earth campaign.
- An early First Wave episode has the protagonist investigate the death of a college student who is revealed to have been working on a government project to deploy a series of nuclear missile-armed satellites in Earth's orbit. While he initially assumes they're there to attack other nations, the fact that they're pointing away from Earth tips him off that the government is aware of (some sort of) an alien threat and are taking precautions. Unfortunately, the aliens find out about this and send their agent to set the satellites to self-destruct, showing Earth with radioactive material. Since Cade foils this plot, the satellites are assumes to still be up there. Of course, none if this is ever mentioned again.
- The M-BUS is capable of acting as one, though it mostly serves as a Transform Sat instead.
- Parodied by The Colbert Report when Colbert responds to North Korea's bizarre video about a man dreaming about nuking the United States by falling asleep and dreaming about flying into space to blow up North Korea with a satellite-mounted laser. (The effect is mitigated by the obvious use of movie clips and the presence a man dancing around in a hot dog suit.)
- Project Crossbow in Nikita, a defunct Strategic Defense Initiative satellite that couldn't hit a moving target, but does really well against large, planet-based targets...like nuclear power plants. Except it doesn't. In a subversion, it turns out that the whole thing is a hoax cooked up by a villain with mooks willing to conduct suicide bombings of the targeted reactors.
Religion And Mythology
- There is a Kill Sat greater than all others on this page and His name is the LORD.
- Although He deals out punishment from Heaven several times throughout the Bible, special points go to the story of Elijah. The prophet is sitting on a hill when a captain leading fifty soldiers approaches and calls out, "Man of God, the king orders you to come down." Elijah responds, "If I am a man of God, may fire from heaven consume you and you fifty men." A second captain leading fifty men suffers the same fate, and the third one appears begging for his life. An angel tells Elijah that this one is safe to go with.
- Basically what happens when you piss off a solar deity. Helios, for instance, is begged to by Gaia to throw a burning "red" ray to melt off Zeus' snow and ice off Typhon in Nonnus, Dionysiaca 2. 543 ff. Ra's Eye, usually a goddess like Sekhmet or Isis, acts as this every night to kill of his enemy Apep... and punish whoever is unlawful.
- In Conspiracy X, the secret organization "Project Rasputin" has a psychic Kill Sat. It's a gigantic amplifier for a crew of psychic characters, letting them use their powers on anything from one building to several square kilometers. In that area it can do things like read minds, alter memories, or yes, kill people.
- More directly, NASA also had "Gun Stars" that would fire hockey-puck sized chunks of metal really fast at ground targets.
- In the Old World of Darkness, the Technocracy had secret orbital satellites for spying, defense against alien incursions, you name it (as well as various research stations on Luna and some moons of Jupiter and at Lagrange points throughout the solar system, a defense parameter around Earth and Moon, a Dyson Sphere in Deep Space...). As revealed in the supplement Time of Thin Blood, when an ancient vampire arose from slumber in India during the End Times and laid waste to Bangladesh the Technocracy executed "Code Ragnarök"; they finally managed to destroy the vampire by first stunning him with fusion bombs and then incinerating him with the help of a network of mirror satellites and a concentrated ray of sunlight from heaven.
- In Warhammer 40,000, Exterminatus is the command used by the Inquisition when demons or heresy spread too far across the planet to be contained by covert or even overt military action. All possible (or at least important) Imperial forces pull out, and the orbiting fleet blows the hell out of the planet in any of a wide variety of ways, ranging from glassing the surface with hundreds of multi-gigaton warheads and ship-based beam weapons, to bombs filled with viruses that turn all organic matter into sludge, and "cyclonic torpedoes" that light the atmosphere on fire in a rather Homeworld-esque way. All of these methods aim for one thing: rendering life on the planet impossible.
- Even when you don't need to destroy the entire planet, the various factions aren't above shelling the battlefield from orbit.
- There is a giant defense system in Terra's solar system meant to defend it against enemy fleets thousands strong. It includes Kill Sats, moons that were hollowed out and made into bases, and a whole space fleet to name a few items.
- This being Warhammer 40k, sometimes setting the atmosphere on fire, rendering organic matter into its constituent molecules or just plain old turning everything into molten slag just is not enough.. for this, there are two stage torpedoes which will actually blow a planet up.
- Lampshaded in the Ciaphis Cain novels, with Cain admitting that occasionally a planet is too far gone even for bombardment, as it won't work and merely "gives them ideas".
- In Shadowrun, "Thor shots" are Kill Sats that fire space junk at the target. It has similar power to a nuclear device and is treated as such. Orbital lasers also exist, and one was used on the dragon Alamais. He survived.
- The Fist of Shiva from the Feng Shui supplement "Seed of the New Flesh" is a Buro weather control satellite that doubles as a Kill Sat. In the adventure that features it, the players have to forge an alliance between all the other factions in order to commandeer a space shuttle, take over the Fist of Shiva, and use it to destroy the Buro-controlled 2056-era Vatican in order to wipe out not only a powerful Buro feng shui site, but also to stop the Buro from using their new Transworld Maglev Network to make the site the most powerful in the world and warping the world's chi to an unimaginable degree.
- Dungeons & Dragons has a spell called "Apocalypse from the Sky". No points for guessing what it does, considering it's not summoning kitties.
- Also, in 4e Warlocks with a Starpact learn an spell that calls down an ice beam from the stars. Sustaining it drains the Warlock's life but continually ramps up the power. With Actions and a paladin sustaining him a Warlock could do several dozen D10's of damage over the course of the spell.
- In the d20 Modern Urban Arcana setting, the Swiss Juncture of Gnome (a bunch of gnomes dropped in Switzerland using their "out of the box" though process to form their technical consulting company) made plans for a kill sat, that was never built because of cost concerns.
- In the post-apocalyptic world of Eclipse Phase, the Earth has been ravaged by nuclear weaponry, bio- and nanovirii, and rampaging TITAN technology. The planet is under interdiction by a number of Kill Sats - they shoot down anything attempting to reach or leave the surface. Who put them there? Nobody's quite sure...
- In Heavy Gear, there's even a new term to describe kill sats - ortillery, a portmanteau of orbital artillery.
- In Genius: The Transgression, "Orbital Gun" is a modification one can make to Katastrofi Wonders. It allows the Wonder in question to deal out hellish amounts of damage, but makes it difficult to successfully hit any target smaller than an Navy destroyer. For added fun, you can also pour in some extra training and a crapton of Mania, and get the mother of all Healing Shivs in orbital laser form.
- For reasons that aren't entirely clear a lot of White cards do this in Magic: The Gathering. Smite the Monstrous is a apparently a mystical laser that is fired by the moon of Innistrad.
- In Nuclear War, the Killer Satellite card is used to deter/destroy Space Platforms.
- It can also shoot down the Space Shuttle, IIRC.
- In Rifts many people believe that Earth is surrounded by Kill Sats put into orbit by the nations before the Great Cataclysm, which is why nothing can be launched into space without being destroyed. They're partially right. In reality, survivors from Earth's space stations and Moon colony maintain and deploy new Kill Sats deliberately to keep the Earth under quarantine.
- The graphic novel-esque flash series Broken Saints features a fanatical Corrupt Corporate Executive who sets up a Kill Sat network in order to broadcast a signal triggering his vision of Judgment Day. It also has the ability to lock on to anywhere on the planet and emit highly-focused EM pulses.
- In Megatokyo, the Tokyo Police Cataclysm Division used "a high-intensity satellite-based laser" to "neutralize" Ed and his plasma cannon, in this strip.
- In Romantically Apocalyptic, The Good Directorate possesses (possessed?) at least one of these.
- A military Kill Sat was fired with great precision at just one person in this strip of Antihero for Hire.
- In Drive, it is revealed the Tesskans used some kind of Kill Sat on Berlin, Beijing, and New York City.
- Exterminatus Now, being a combination of Sonic the Hedgehog and Warhammer 40,000, is named after the command that field agents of the Mobian Inquisition can use in times of imminent defeat or upon discovering a massive demon incursion to request a direct strike from an orbital weapons platform on their current position — which means if they don't manage to get far away quickly enough, they too will go out with a bang. Note that this is a toned down version of the W40K Exterminatus...
- In Exploitation Now, the Bad Guy is incinerated by his own "defense" satellite after the heroine reprogrammed it to target the building he was in. (Actually they were both on the roof of said building.) 1, 2, 3
- Earlier on, the same character hijacked an old secret Soviet orbital weapons platform to nuke Canada.
- The RPG-spoof Adventurers has a laser-obsessed Big Bad who loves nothing more than using his orbital-based DeathRay to toast bread and make sammiches.
- The "Eyes in the Sky" from Sluggy Freelance. In the ghoul-infested world, these "Eyes" were used to rain destruction down upon attacking ghouls.
- Used in This strip about Sound of Music robots from Truck Bearing Kibble.
- User Friendly is also fond of this trope, in the form of "Crowbar Satellites", which... well, drop crowbars from orbit. When the User Friendly crew were visiting Antarctica, one of the techs living there used a satellite to drop a crowbar on the unfortunate Predator wandering around outside with a soldering iron stuck in his eye (it's a long story), exploding him quite satisfactorily. Pitr (resident evil-genius wannabe) eventually got his own Crowbar Satellite... at least until one of the other techs found the remote and mistook it for a handheld game, wasting all the ammo.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Dracula is far too elegant to bother with something as blunt as an orbital satellite. He uses Moon Lasers instead.
- Technically, the moon is a satellite.
- NSTA revolves around the operations of the titular National Satellite Tracking Agency, which manages orbital satellites used for both techno-telepathic brain-borrowing computation and orbital laser strikes. The first strip to introduce the latter functionality involved precision brain surgery by thought-controlled orbital laser.
- The Tower of Babel in S.S.D.D is an odd variation in that the satellite is only a mirror designed to redirect the lasers fired from a very large, very phallic looking tower. Apparently previous attempts at orbital weapons were either really large and easy to shoot down, or underpowered.
- In Sequential Art Jack launched an orbital laser cannon and used it to destroy a couple buildings, then Art accidentally made it target the tank Jack was driving, and (intentionally) pinned him to it. Later OZBASIC attempted to upload into that satellite.
- Gilgamesh Wulfenbach of Girl Genius made it look like he was directing a Kill Sat with a handheld scepter. Subverted when the power source is six large crystals positioned around the city, which fried right before the enemy surrendered.
- The SCP Foundation has SCP-923, a Memetic Kill Sat. It makes people Ax-Crazy, and the effect 'splashes' at higher settings. It reports a maximum output of 238, which gets converted to 'keter' intensity - and apparently causes effects that screw with reality itself. More worryingly, using it causes wear (and results in lower-intensity settings slowly becoming unavailable). What really worries the Foundation, though, is the fact that the Kill Sat says it was built to help protect a site that they never built.
- Anonymous has a Low Orbit Ion Cannon (a program that helps with their DDOS attacks), which got them noticed by the FBI after they attacked sites that were boycotting WikiLeaks.
- In To Boldly Flee, Big Bad the Executor has a Kill Sat that he uses to (almost) kill That SciFi Guy. And plans to use it to destroy the Earth.
- Futurama included an unintentional satellite of doom. In an effort to defeat global warming, a scientist creates a giant mirror to reflect the sun's rays. When the giant mirror is knocked off course, it focuses a beam of sunlight on the Earth that incinerates everything in its path. Epic Fail.
- Later in the episode, the same scientist converted the same mirror into a more traditional Kill Sat at the request of the President of Earth, Richard Nixon. The plan was to use it to destroy the Galapagos Islands, where Nixon had tricked all of Earth's robots into going with a massive party, when it was discovered that robots were the cause of global warming. It Makes Sense in Context.
- The second Watchtower in Justice League Unlimited had one of these, which caused the heroes no end of grief when it got hijacked for villainous purposes. They eventually decided it was too much power for anyone to have and decommissioned the gun. It was called the "Binary Fusion Generator", which (while never spoken as such in the show) has a convenient acronym.
- In the Batman Beyond OVA movie, Return of the Joker, the Joker manages to gain control of a Kill Sat. Terry is forced into a chase scene with the beam through downtown Gotham at one point. (The commentary notes that this is a Shout-Out to the AKIRA example from above.)
- In the Justice League episode Maid of Honor, villain Vandal Savage takes control of a mass driver equipped Kill Sat owned by the kingdom of his intended bride...and is promptly crushed (but not killed, thanks to his regenerative powers) by a shot from the weapon after his plans are foiled.
- Code Lyoko: XANA once hacked into a laser satellite, apparently to try to vaporize Yumi... again.
- Rocko's Modern Life episode "Teed Off" featured a satellite that launched grand pianos.
- In an episode of Galactic Guardians, Darkseid tries to turn the peaceful Star City into a Kill Sat. When the heroes foil his plan, he is forced to settle for a Colony Drop.
- In the 1981 Spider-Man cartoon, Doctor Doom introduced us to a satellite-mounted laser — the laser part of which was actually a holdover from an earlier episode — and used it to play with the Pacific Ring of Fire. As far as the "kill" part, the satellite turns out to have a surprisingly localized effect when it gets knocked off course, burns a path to his castle and bodily vaporizes him.
- Johnny Bravo was once fried by one when he started hitting on a random nerd girl.
- Invader Zim parodies this. When Dib discovers that Zim is weak against water, naturally a water fight ensues. This escalates until Zim builds a giant, orbital water balloon launcher.
- In G.I. Joe: Resolute Cobra uses a kill sat to blow up Moscow. Successfully, in the first ten minutes of the first episode.
- In the Dilbert series, Dogbert causes some havoc with one of these.
- Ronald Reagan in Celebrity Deathmatch tried to kill Ayatollah Khomeini with the Star Wars satellite defense system. The first attempt failed and killed a random audience member instead, but the second attempt succeeded.
- The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers episode "Queen's Lair" revolved around the Rangers' efforts to take out one of these before The Queen of the Crown took out Earth with it. This actually made for one of the darker episodes of the series.
- In Beast Wars, an alien race known as the Vok had built a gigantic death ray (well, a heat ray designed to detonate all the Energon they'd placed in the crust) within a second artificial moon orbiting Earth with the purpose of getting rid of the Earth "experiment" if it didn't work out or would cause them problems. Said ray was blown up when Optimus Primal attempted a Heroic Sacrifice. He got better.
- Played for Laughs in Teen Titans Go!, when Beast Boy and Cyborg's desperate attempts to stall the pizza boy ultimately result in using one of these to destroy the whole pizzeria. They quickly realize that they may have gone too far.
- Transformers Prime has established that before he founded MECH, leader Silas was involved in the development of these as part of "Project Damocles". Which was believed to be cancelled, but it turned out the prototype had been built, and when Silas gets transplanted into Breakdown's chassis and joins the Decepticons, it gets put to use with great effect by Soundwave.
- In Spliced, Octocat controls a Kill Sat that she uses on people who annoy her.
- A Kill Sat made a short appearance in an episode of Kim Possible. The series Arch-Enemy tried to obtain the controls for it, but failed.
- The actual deployment of nukes in space is prohibited by the 1969 Outer Space Treaty.
- One of the best-known real life examples (although it never passed the experimental stages) was the US "Strategic Defense Initiative" or "Star Wars" program which was shelved in the closing years of the Cold War. Principally a system to intercept intercontinental missiles from space, it also included "Rods from God" and "Brilliant Pebbles", anti-fortification weapons which (in laymen's terms) were meant to drop big rods or lumps of metal from orbit at underground bunkers, using the kinetic energy of the weapon rather than explosives or nukes to do the damage.
Another SDI idea was the pop-up one-shot X-Ray laser satellite. They would be powered by a nuke and theoretically they would toast an area as wide as a football field. The single test towards this design proved inconclusive, though serendipitously fueled the development of plenty of other (often civil) technologies. Still, it may have been the inspiration for Goldeneye, above.
Rods from God is supposedly back on the drawing board now, as a possible way of discreetly dealing with hardened targets belonging to terrorists or rogue states.
In the decades since it was abandoned, many of the engineers and scientists who were involved in SDI have openly admitted that they'd never expected their projects to work: to them, it was just a handy way to get funding for pure physics research under the guise of applied military R&D.
- The scary thing? With the current technology, Rods from God could be built, launched and deployed right now. You Can Panic Now.
- The Russian Almaz-class military space station OPS-2/Salyut 3 sported a self-defense gun that was tested successfully on a target-satellite (probably one of their own obsolete ones, since shooting down a US satellite would have been considered an act of war). The intent here was probably taking out potential US killer satellites.
- The Russians also had the Polyus project, an advanced weapons satellite that would have sported particle weaponry, orbital mines, and an anti-observance shroud (read: cloaking device, or rather very dark cover). Would have — it was launched upside down, executed a 360-degree spin instead of a 180, and crashed into the ocean.
- During the late 1990s, the Russian government announced plans for building a network of mirror satellites to capture and collect sunlight and direct it onto subpolar regions (i.e. Siberia) during winter, to improve agriculture or cut down on electrical lighting during the polar winter. The project seems to have been dropped quietly, due to costs.
- That's also a proposed alternative for terraforming Mars: since the planet doesn't have enough gravity to retain an atmosphere with significant greenhouse effect (for dummies: the little heat that makes it to Mars escapes too quickly as opposed to Earth where the much thicker atmosphere keeps some of said heat for months; without this, Earth's average surface temperature would be around -18°C), they'd build several orbital mirrors and focus them onto a relatively small area. Even a few sats could heat the target area enough that a human could stroll around with a simple oxygen mask and street clothing. And since Humans Are Warriors, it's only a matter of time before someone gets the idea to weaponize the tech.
- Older Than They Think: Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, freaked a lot of people out when it went up, although they were afraid of the possibility of the launch vehicles the Russians now had being used to launch nuclear warheads rather than the satellite itself.
- Even Older Than They Think: The Nazis called theirs the Sonnengewehr or "Sun Gun", which in turn was based on a 1929 design. A giant space-borne parabolic mirror, it would have been used to burn down cities from space. Let me repeat: The Nazis were planning a giant space-borne sun laser. More info here.
- The ultimate proposed kill-sat is the Nicoll-Dyson Laser. Using a shell of satellites in orbit around the sun (the original proposal for a Dyson Sphere, not a solid shell) which collect solar energy and convert it into a laser beam, James Nicoll calculated that one could use the satellites to create a phased array laser which would have an initial beam width equal to the size of the satellites' orbits and an effective range of millions of light years. Talk about "leading your target". However, it should be pointed out that the guy who 'designed' it is a SF blogger and fan-writer, not a scientist or engineer. It's technically feasible, maybe, but in the end, just a plot point idea.
- The inversion is more common: Anti-satellite weapon, or ASAT. These range from nuclear explosions (IN SPACE!) to contemporary missiles. In this age of information, these have incredible destructive potential to infrastructure (compare the 2006 internet slowdown when some undersea cables were destroyed by an earthquake in Taiwan). It's not entirely ominous though, as there are few ways to safelynote and economically dispose of unused old satellites.
- So far, the US and China have successfully demonstrated ASAT weapons. (The US in 1985, China in 2007, and the US again in 2008, probably to remind China they could do it, too.) The Chinese gained some negative international reputation because they destroyed their satellite in high orbit, leaving over 2,000 potentially-dangerous chunks of debris out there. (The International Space Station is often moved to avoid orbital debris; at least two moves since the Chinese test have been done specifically to avoid its debris—yes, the Chinese literally almost pulled a Gravity.)
- One drawback of proposals for the use of orbiting solar-power satellites as an environmentally-friendly form of energy generation is that any means of delivering the energy to the Earth's surface in useful quantities could potentially be used as one of these if someone hacked the controls.
- A man version was proposed (and may or may not have been attempted) in the late sixties with the Lenticular Reentry Vehicle. This craft was a large nuclear powered flying saucer that would have been carried into orbit by booster rockets and covertly loitered in orbit for weeks or even months with a payload of four nukes. If the Soviet Union attacked while one was on patrol, it could act as a revenge weapon and take out the soviet union. While the status of the project is classified, though its existence is not. This means its technically possible this thing was fully functional at one point, though its more likely that it reached the prototype phase and and there was a terrible accident.