Empire strikes back
Nov 7, 1997
The US has illuminated an satellite by using a powerful laser.
The US Army Space and Strategic Defense Command has fired its Miracl laser at an American satellite orbiting 260 miles above the Earth. The powerful laser, an offshoot of the Strategic Defence Initiative of the 1980s, was fired twice from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The laser beam destroyed neither its target - an infrared camera - nor the satellite itself. Rather, the beam "illuminated" the camera, according to Air Force spokesman Bob Potter. The experiment was designed to test how vulnerable infrared and other satellites sensors are to relatively low-power laser weapons (Physics World October p6). Military officials are now analysing the results.