US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Artist's impression of a ground-based laser for intercepting enemy ballistic missiles. This concept is part of the US Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or 'Star Wars') programme. A powerful ground-based free-electron laser is directed toward a relay mirror in orbit. This diverts the beam toward a second (attack) mirror, which reflects and concentrates the beam onto the target. This system is designed to operate in the boost phase of the missile's flight, before the multiple warheads have been released, and is the first 'layer' of the SDI system.
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