Just after dusk in the New Mexican desert, a high-powered Army laser trained its invisible beam on a U.S. satellite as it emerged from over the horizon to the north.
With a burst of flame and smoke, the hulking device generated a beam that shot up through the atmosphere at the small satellite 260 miles above the earth. The test, conducted Friday at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and announced Monday at the Pentagon, went off successfully, pointing to a possible new direction in warfare.Weeks after an initial failure, the Pentagon announced, the Army successfully fired its "Miracl" laser, an acronym for the 1980s-vintage Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser, at an aging Air Force satellite.
Neither the satellite nor its target point - an infrared camera - was damaged or disabled in the several test firings lasting less than five seconds each. But the Pentagon views the test as concrete proof of a long-held concern: that its own satellites, as well as intelligence, civilian or commercial satellites, are vulnerable to laser weapons.