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Russia is building a new ground-based laser weapon for disrupting enemy satellites orbiting overhead. A report by The Space Review states that the Russian military’s intention is to blind sensors on ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) satellites belonging to NATO and other hostile nations. To improve the country’s space warfighting, Russia has developed a system to permanently disable electro-optical sensors used by satellites to track ground-based units and facilities. 

Not much is known of this new directed energy weapon, named Kalina, but if the reports are correct this weapon could turn ISR satellites completely useless. The system blinds the electro-optical sensors of ISR satellites by overloading the sensors with enough light to prevent them from functioning. According to achieving this requires high-precision delivery of sufficient amounts of amplified light beams to the targeted satellite sensor. Given the extreme distances and the fact that the laser beam must first pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, this maneuver is highly impressive. 

Kalina operates in a pulsed mode and produces about 1,000 joules per square centimeter. The system delivers an enormous number of photons across large distances and hits satellites orbiting overhead. It is able to do this because lasers form highly collimated beams, meaning the photons travel in parallel, preventing the beam from spreading out and diverging damage output. Kalina focuses its beam using a telescope with a diameter of several meters.

ISR satellites using electro-optical sensors tend to operate in LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) with an altitude of several hundred kilometers. It typically takes these satellites several minutes to pass over any specific point on Earth, requiring Kalina to be able to operate continuously for that long while maintaining permanent track on the electro-optical sensors. Based on the reported details of the telescope, Kalina would be able to target an overhead satellite for hundreds of kilometers of its path. This makes it possible to protect a very large area of over 100,000 square kilometers from ISR satellites.

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