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Project Diana Honored With an IEEE Milestone

The demonstration prompted the United States to enter the race to space

4 min read
Photograph of a dish at the Diana site.
Site Diana in Wall Township, N.J., with modern antenna. The Project Diana site is now part of the Information Age Science History Museum and Learning Center.
Photo: IEEE History Center

THE INSTITUTEOn 10 January 1946 four standard-array antennae at Camp Evans, on the grounds of Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, sent a radar pulse toward the moon as it rose above the horizon. Just 2.5 seconds later, the signal had bounced off the lunar surface, its echo appearing clearly on an oscilloscope.

That seemingly modest demonstration, called Project Diana, had a lasting impact, marking the birth of radar astronomy, which has been used to map other planets. It also set the stage for the space race in the United States.

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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