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PENTAGON CASTS DOUBT ON PLAN TO FIRE LASER BEAM AT ORBITING U.S. SATELLITE

Beset with technical and weather problems, the Pentagon has put on hold its plan to fire a laser beam at a U.S. satellite in orbit.

The test, criticized by members of Congress and others as potentially provoking a race to develop anti-satellite weapons, was to have marked the first time a laser beam was fired through space to test its destructive power.

The experiment originally was to have taken place Saturday night but was postponed because of a technical problem getting the laser started. The laser, known by the acronym MIRACL, is based at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Pentagon spokesman Michael Doubleday said Tuesday that a second attempt, Monday night, was scratched because of excessive cloud cover.

Now it appears unlikely the test will happen at all. Doubleday said the satellite is not in the right position in orbit, and it is quickly losing power because its batteries are running low. The sensors that would record data from the laser strike may not have enough power to make the test worthwhile.

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