Corrective Laser Operating on Space Surveillance Telescope

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A laser designed to correct for atmospheric distortion is now operating aboard a space surveillance telescope at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., improving its performance, according to an Oct. 16 press release from Boeing, which helped developed the system.

Boeing Defense, Space and Security of St. Louis worked with the Air Force Research Laboratory to build the so-called sodium guide star laser, which is installed on a 3.5-meter telescope at Kirtland’s Starfire Optical Range, according to the press release.

The 50-watt laser illuminates sodium atoms in the atmosphere to create an artificial guide star, which is used by the device to measure the blurring effects of atmospheric turbulence. An adaptive optics system then corrects for these effects, improving the telescope’s ability to capture detailed images of objects in Earth orbit.

“The addition of this sodium guide star laser, along with improvements to the [adaptive optics] system sensitivity, will make it possible for us to reliably obtain satellite images with more accurate and precise details than ever before,” Dennis Montera, principal investigator for the project at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said in a prepared statement. “This is a critically important step in increasing our capabilities in space situational awareness.”