Jeffrey LewisStarfire Optical Range

This is a picture of the 3.5 telescope at the Starfire Optical Range, Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM.

The FY 2006 President’s Budget Request includes $4.9 M for the Starfire Optical Range to “perform atmospheric compensation/beam control experiments for applications including antisatellite weapons, relay mirror systems, satellite tests and diagnostics, and high-resolution satellite imaging.” [Emphasis mine]

In addition to collecting stellar imagery, the good folks at the Starfire Optical Range plan to begin lighting up satellites this year and next:

(U) In FY 2006: Begin testing of advanced laser-beacon adaptive optics system on SOR 3.5 meter telescope to increase imaging resolution/laser beam control. Perform high-resolution satellite imaging at short wavelengths. Demonstrate and characterize performance of point-ahead compensated laser propagation to LEO satellites using sodium-beacon adaptive optics.

(U) In FY 2007: Demonstrate fully compensated laser propagation to LEO satellites; measure beam profile and intensity on target. Begin development of precision aimpoint stabilization through turbulence.

The Russians got worked up the last time the Pentagon illuminated a satellite, using the MIRACL laser in October 1997.

What’s a little precision aimpoint stabilization between friends?


  1. Allen Thomson (History)

    Just as a historical note, this is the latest in a long, long line of laser-vs-satellite work.