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The U.S. military has test-fired a powerful ground-based laser at an Air Force satellite in an attempt to measure the vulnerability of U.S. satellites to laser attack, the Pentagon said today.

Army Col. Richard Bridges, a Defense Department spokesman, said that the results of Friday's test -- in which an Army laser based at White Sands, N.M., was fired at an aging satellite -- were still being determined.

Defense Secretary William Cohen approved the test, and the Pentagon said it would not violate any treaties and was not an offensive attempt to destroy the aging satellite but to test whether brief, intense beams of laser light could damage its ability to operate.

Bridges said two beams, the first of less than one second duration and the second of about 10 seconds, were fired from the "Miracl" military laser at the satellite high above the earth.

"The results are still being studied," he said.

The laser's target was the U.S. Air Force Miniature Sensor Technology Integration program's third satellite, which according to the Pentagon has exceeded its useful lifetime. Cloudy weather earlier this month delayed plans to use the Mid-Infra-Red Advanced Chemical Laser (Miracl) to illuminate the satellite.

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