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Russia is reportedly building a satellite blinding laser – expert explains

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Russia is building new ground-based laser facility for interference with satellites orbiting overhead, according to a recent report in The Space Review. The basic idea would be to blind the optical sensors of other countries’ spy satellites by flooding them with laser light.

Laser technology has evolved in such a way that this type of anti-satellite defense is plausible, although there is limited evidence that a country has successfully tested such a laser.

If the Russian government can build the laser, it could shield a large part of the country from the view of satellites with optical sensors. The technology is also paving the way for the more ominous possibility of laser weapons that can permanently disable satellites.

How lasers work

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A laser is a device for creating a narrow beam of focused energy. The first laser was developed in 1960and since that time, different types have been created that use different physical mechanisms to generate photons or light particles.

Gas lasers pump large amounts of energy into specific molecules such as carbon dioxide. Chemical lasers are powered by specific chemical reactions that release energy. Solid-state lasers use custom-made crystalline materials to convert electrical energy into photons. In all lasers, the photons are then amplified by passing them through a special type of material called the average profit and then focused into a coherent beam by a beam director.

The physics of lasers explained.

Laser Effects

Depending on the photon intensity and wavelength, the focused energy beam formed by a laser can create a range of effects on its target. For example, if the photons are in the visible part of the spectrum, a laser can deliver light to its target.

For a sufficiently high flow of high-energy photons, a laser can heat, vaporize, melt and even burn the material of its target. The ability to deliver these effects is determined by the laser power level, the distance between the laser and the target, and the ability to focus the beam on the target.

Laser applications

The various effects generated by lasers find widespread applications in everyday life, including laser pointers, printers, DVD players, retinal and other medical surgical procedures, and industrial manufacturing processes such as laser welding and cutting. Researchers develop lasers as an alternative to radio wave technology to improve communication between spacecraft and the ground.

Lasers also find widespread use in military operations. One of the best known is the Laser in the sky (ABL), which the US military planned to use to shoot down ballistic missiles. ABL involved a very large, powerful laser mounted on a Boeing 747. The program was ultimately doomed to failure due to the challenges associated with the thermal management and maintenance of the chemical laser.