Date: 1/25/01 2:27:58 PM Pacific Standard Time
From:    (Kyle )

US steadies aim of space laser
Thursday, 25 January 2001 13:43 (ET)

US steadies aim of space laser

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The development of a futuristic
orbiting laser capable of shooting down missiles headed for the United
States took a step forward with the successful test of a means to keep the
weapon pointed at its target in the weightless environment of space.

Engineers from the Space Based Laser-Integrated Flight Experiment
(SPL-IFX) consortium successfully tested software designed to keep the
laser's telescopic targeting optics fixed on their targets while the weapon
is firing, it was announced Thursday.

"The test was a solid success," said Col. Neil McCasland, director of the
Air Force's SBL-IFX project office. "The laser operated (as expected), the
software designed to maintain the positions of the beam director optics
during lasing performed as designed, and we collected a wealth of diagnostic
data about the high-energy laser environment."

The test, which lasted 6 seconds, took place Dec. 8 at a TRW facility in
Orange County, Calif.

The $240 million SBL-IFX project is aimed at developing a working
laser-armed satellite that can defend the United States against a small
number of missiles launched either by mistake or by a "rogue" nation. The
Air Force-funded consortium's plan calls for an actual attempted
interception in 2013.

"A critical part of a successful on-orbit IFX demonstration is being able
to know precisely where the beam director will direct the laser beam," said
Art Woods, Lockheed Martin's space laser program manager. "We proved with
this test that designed to measure the alignment of the beam
director telescope and the relationship between the beam director's primary
and secondary mirrors can operate effectively in the presence of the
high-power laser beam."

The consortium, which includes TRW, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, received
its latest funding increment from the Pentagon last October and has started
fabricating some parts of the actual orbiter, a TRW spokesman said Thursday.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.