Japan’s x-ray free-electron laser, SACLA (SPring-8 Angstrom Compact Free-Electron Laser), can deliver radiation 1 billion times brighter and with pulses 1000 times shorter than other existing x-ray sources. In late March, the facility marked its first milestone with beam acceleration to 8 GeV and spontaneous x-rays of 0.8 Å. Less than three months later, on June 7, SACLA marked a second milestone. Researchers successfully increased the density of the electron beam by several hundred times and guided it with a precision of several microns to produce a bright x-ray laser with a wavelength of 1.2 Å, matching the record set at the Linac Coherent Light Source in Menlo Park, Calif., the only other operational XFEL facility in the world. The SACLA free-electron laser marked its first lasing this spring. Courtesy of RIKEN Harima Institute. In July, after one month of commissioning, the SACLA team confirmed laser amplification down to 0.8 Å and laser saturation of ~1.6 Å with a short-pulse operation, continuing the tune-up toward shorter wavelength saturation with increased pulse energy. The achievements hold the promise of opening a window into the structure of atoms and molecules at an all new level of detail. With experiments set to commence soon and user operations at the facility to begin by the end of fiscal 2011, this new milestone offers a taste of things to come. Officials at RIKEN Harima Institute and Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute expect to follow self-amplified spontaneous emission saturation with x-ray optics commissioning and end-station commissioning from August 2011 to February 2012. The facility is slated to be opened to international public users in March 2012 through JASRI, and calls for proposals will be announced through RIKEN’s website: http://xfel.riken.jp/eng/index.html.