Years ago I lived next door to a Shuttle mission specialist. He was involved in some of the early classified missions to test technology for Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI, more commonly know as "Star Wars".
Among the technologies being evaluated was an orbiting laser that was intended to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles from thousands of miles away. "One of the things we'd like to know", he said, "is exactly where to hit them."
"Do you mean like in the boost phase, stage separation, or warhead bus deployment?", I asked.
"No", he said, "I mean like payload shroud, red star, or rocket nozzles."
As I understand things the real need is to develop a "pulse" laser these current systems are heavy developments of an industrial laser and take much support and time on target. Geoff
Who notes David Drake's speculation deserves some inquiry.