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Pentagon's Laser Test Fails to Meet Objective

Photonics Spectra
Dec 1997
When the Pentagon fired a mid-infrared laser at an orbiting US Air Force satellite in October, it failed to accomplish one of the experiment's main objectives: recording the impact.
The Defense Department aimed the laser at an infrared camera onboard the satellite 260 miles above the Earth's surface. However, the camera did not transmit images of the strike, because it was receiving instructions at the moment of impact. The camera cannot record images and transmit data at the same time.
According to a Pentagon spokesman, the main purpose of the experiment was to better understand the effects of a laser on a satellite's electronics system and onboard sensors. Because of the shortage of data from the strike, it remains unclear exactly how the laser's impact affected the satellite. Arms-control advocacy groups and others were critical of the experiment, saying that it gave the impression that the US was moving toward an offensive use of lasers in space.


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