Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Offers Russia Details On Lasers Shot Into Space




WASHINGTON -- The United States has proposed sharing with Russia information on lasers shot into space to avoid damaging or interfering with orbiting satellites, a White House official said.


Washington is floating the proposal after concerns expressed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin over the test firing in October of a high-powered U.S. military laser at an orbiting Air Force satellite.


In discussions with Russian officials in Washington last month, the United States suggested sharing data on laser tests to avoid unintended laser strikes on satellites and other objects in orbit, the official said.


The U.S. Space Command in Colorado currently alerts U.S. commercial satellite companies of planned laser tests to avoid interfering with their operations in space.


"The question was whether to expand it to Russian laser operations," the White House official, who asked not to be identified, said Friday.


According to the Washington Times, however, Pentagon critics of the proposal fear that sharing such information will clue the Russians to the vulnerabilities of U.S. communications and spy satellites.


Pentagon spokesmen were unavailable for comment, but the White House official said the proposal had the support of all government agencies, including the Pentagon.


"It's absolutely incorrect that it would include any sharing of sensitive data on U.S. communications or surveillance satellites," the official said. "This would not entail any violation of any U.S. national security restrictions."


"When there's going to be a laser beam shot above the horizon, there would be an exchange of information about the planned shot so we could inform the Russians if this might conflict with any object currently in orbit," the official said.


"It does not involve giving the Russians any sensitive data about our satellites. Essentially, it's what we already do for commercial satellite operators," he added.


Russia, which has a large space program, is the only country to which the United States has proposed such an exchange of information on laser shots. The Russians have not formally responded to the U.S. proposal, the official said.


With the military and commerce increasingly dependent on satellites, their vulnerabilities have become of the focus of intensifying scrutiny by the U.S. military.


Between 20 and 30 countries are believed to have ground-based lasers capable of reaching space, according to U.S. officials.


A test Oct. 17 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico showed surveillance satellites to test its vulnerabilities.