In CNN's video An exclusive look into how Space Force is defending America they talk with Gen. John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, US Space Force.

After about 04:22:

Narrator: Adversaries have already attempted to use space weapons to temporarily disable US satellites.

They mention "space weapons" which might suggests space-based weapons, but the graphics shows a beam of something originating in eastern Europe or western Asia hitting a satellite in space.

Question: Have "space lasers" actually been used in an attempt to temporarily blind US satellites? Was it a surface-based laser, a space-based laser, both, or something else?

This could potentially be posted in Politics SE instead; they take some questions about international relations, military events and space. But news about lasers and satellites is more likely to be closely followed by users in this community than in that one, for example (sorted by asking date):

screen shot from CNN's "An exclusive look into how Space Force is defending America"

  • $\begingroup$ "What country has used "space lasers" in an attempt to temporarily blind US satellites? Was it a surface-based laser, a space-based laser, or something else?" From vague memory in the 80s, this would have been the Soviets as IIRC they were testing lasers anti sat/missile tech, space based, ground based etc. It rings bells as being pretty common knowledge back then. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Being the Cold War that sort of thing was always being amped up anyway to justify the West developing more, faster, better and more lethal. This is the kind of thing that was thrown around at the time imgur.com/t3v8Dzg from 1978. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan You're welcome to downvote uhoh's questions if you don't like this pattern, but as long as any major changes like this are made before the question is answered it's ok. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan I think I was a little vague here, so for clarity. I'm not suggesting targeted downvoting. That would not be appropriate. I'm just saying any questions you feel this pattern occurs on you can downvote. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 13:32

1 Answer 1


Yes, ground based lasers have been used in an attempt to temporarily blind US satellites.

Fortunately, it was the US that tried it.

The US Army successfully tested the TRW-built Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on 17 October.

During two firings, lasting about 1s and 10s respectively, the 2m- wide laser beam was aimed at the infra-red camera aboard a US Air Force satellite.

The $60 million Miniature Sensor Technology Integration, MISTI 3 satellite, in orbit 416km overhead, was "illuminated", but not destroyed in the demonstration. The laser was built originally for the Strategic Defense Initiative programme in the 1980s. A full-power and longer burst from the laser would have destroyed the craft.

The MIRACL test - the first to be aimed at a target in space, but not the first MIRACL firing - was a demonstration of a potential space weapon, but also an illustration that another nation could use such a device to disarm or destroy US reconnaissance and other types of military satellite. It also provided data on the vulnerability of US satellites in orbit.

Source: FlightGlobal

Other accounts of the same incident claim it wasn't MIRACL but a weaker laser, but that the satellite's focal plane array was indeed suffused for a few seconds.

Source: Mastering the Ultimate High Ground: Next Steps in the Military Uses of Space This source also briefly touches on the next incident.

Additionally, there were reports in the mid 70's of Soviet blinding attacks on infra-red missile warning satellites. Some said lasers, some said flares from burning gas pipeline leaks. To my knowledge this was never settled publicly.

Source: Arms Control Wonk - list of sources is especially good, although Aviation Week is paywalled.


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