Space-Based Laser Boosts Power
An April 24 test of the megawatt-class hydrogen-fluoride chemical laser known as Alpha increased the output of the device by approximately 25 percent and improved its beam characteristics. Alpha was built by TRW Space and Electronics Group of Redondo Beach, Calif., in 1989 as a test bed for the US Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's Space-Based Laser program.
Technicians removed Alpha's clippers (the circular, gold fixture at their feet), which restrict the size of its lasing cavity. Brooks McKinney, manager of media relations at the company, said the next step in the technology maturation tests is to optimize the chemical flow rates of the laser to improve its "fuel mileage."
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