Once upon a time, Ronald Reagan inaugurated a missile defense program so costly, it helped bring down the Soviet Union.

Grandiosely dubbed the "Strategic Defense Initiative," and quickly relabeled "Star Wars" by its critics, SDI was a convoluted network of ground- and satellite-based laser guns, particle beam accelerators, rocket-interceptors, and even "brilliant pebbles." Scientists criticized Reagan's dream as "unrealistic, even unscientific" ... and it's only gone downhill from there.

Two decades after SDI's demise, Boeing (NYSE: BA) and a team of military-industrial fellow-travelers -- Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), and Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB) -- are still fighting this last war. Sadly, they're meeting even less success.

Yesterday, in a little-noticed announcement, a rump-SDI program now known as "Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GBMD) experienced its second failure in a row, when an interceptor rocket cleanly missed a dummy ballistic missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll. Counting Wednesday's miss, GBMD is now batting eight for 15 on its attempts to knock out in-flight ICBMs. Meanwhile, Boeing's other foray into the Star Wars game -- it's sci-fi-reminiscent Airborne Laser (ABL), isn't doing much better. In October it, too, marked its second-in-a-row failure to shoot down a target.

What's it mean for investors?
Fools looking for a winner in Wednesday's news will doubtless latch onto Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), which is vying to replace Boeing as team leader on GBMD (and incidentally, to swipe the $4.2 billion still marked to be spent on the project's development.) Me, I take a different, perhaps jaundiced, view of the development: Boeing's continually errant bomb-blower-upper places yet another arrow in the quiver of SDI-critics like Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who has called for the cancellation of multiple missile defense projects like GBMD, ABL, KEI (the kinetic energy interceptor), and Lockheed's Multiple Kill Vehicle (aimed at MIRVs).

To be crystal clear here, Gates already thought GBMD was a multibillion-dollar boondoggle before Wednesday's failure. His boss at the White House is talking about upping its $100 billion in planned defense cuts. And now, Boeing has just painted a big red bull's-eye on itself -- telling the budget cutters where to swing the axe.

Star Wars, you say? If you ask me, this project is looking more like Space Balls.

Orbital Sciences is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection, but Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above (or had you guessed?)The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.