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Lockheed Martin, TRW Complete First Integrated Test of Space Laser Components

Monday, March 17, 1997 10:02:00 AM EST

REDONDO BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 17, 1997--On Feb. 20, Lockheed Martin and TRW NYSE:TRW) moved the nation one step closer to being able to demonstrate a space-based laser (SBL) missile defense system.

Working together at TRW's Capistrano Test Site near San Clemente, Calif., the two companies successfully completed the first integrated ground test of the high-power laser and optical subsystems required for a prototype SBL system. The test involved generating a megawatt-class chemical laser beam, then feeding it through a 4-meter diameter beam expander and beam projection system.

High-energy lasers on orbiting space platforms may one day be used to destroy ballistic missiles in their boost phase from thousands of kilometers away.

The test, which lasted approximately one-half second, ran for its full planned duration. It was conducted in a special test chamber that simulates the vacuum of space. The test marked the first time that the TRW-built Alpha chemical laser had been fed through the Large Advanced Mirror Program (LAMP) beam projection telescope, and the Large Optics Demonstration Experiment beam control system developed by Lockheed Martin.

The test was performed as part of the Alpha LAMP Integration (ALI) program, an SBL technology development effort sponsored by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO).

"We are delighted with the success of this first integrated test of SBL components," said Dr. Raymond S. Colladay, Lockheed Martin Astronautics president.

"The test begins the validation of the ALI system design and provides a very encouraging step toward demonstrating the technical feasibility of a space-based laser defense system." Results from the February test will be used to develop the test plan for a more comprehensive ALI test later this spring, he added.

Dr. Noel Hinners, vice president, Lockheed Martin Astronautics Flight Systems, commented, "This successful test is a significant milestone on the nation's path toward developing options for a national missile defense capability."

Added Joanne Maguire, vice president and general manager, TRW Space & Technology Division: "The successful ALI test represents another step in BMDO's systematic approach for developing, maturing and integrating the technologies required for a space-based laser. As the nation's leading developer and supplier of high-energy lasers for critical defense applications, TRW is pleased to contribute to the progress being made on this important program."

During this first ALI test, known as an "open loop" test, the beam control system was "on" but not used in its fully operational mode: Its sensors could "see" the Alpha laser beam, but its deformable and fast steering mirrors were not commanded to "shape" the beam to compensate for environmental factors that would degrade the beam's effectiveness. Future "closed loop" ALI tests will use the beam control system in its fully operational mode.

Alpha is a high-energy, space-compatible, hydrogen fluoride laser developed by TRW for the Department of Defense in the early 1980s. In 12 previous Alpha tests at the Capistrano test facility, TRW has demonstrated laser technologies considered critical to the development and production of an SBL missile defense system. The most recent test occurred in September 1996 as part of TRW's current $30 million Alpha Laser Optimization contract with BMDO.

TRW Space & Electronics Group (S&EG), an operating unit of Cleveland-based TRW Inc., has been engaged in the research and development of lasers since 1961. Today, the group designs and develops a variety of high-energy chemical lasers for space, ground and airborne applications, including hydrogen fluoride, deuterium fluoride, and chemical oxygen iodine lasers. S&EG also produces solid-state lasers for military and industrial applications.

TRW Inc. provides advanced technology products and services for the automotive, space and defense, and civil systems markets worldwide. Its 1996 sales totaled $9.86 billion.

Astronautics is one of four operating units of Lockheed Martin's Space & Strategic Missiles Sector headquartered in Bethesda, Md. Astronautics designs, develops, tests and manufactures a variety of advanced technology systems for space and defense. Its chief products include planetary spacecraft and other space systems, space launch systems and ground systems.

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