Orion (Reading, UK)

Orion is a large-scale multi-beam laser facility with 10 “long-pulse” beams, each delivering 500 J at 351 nm at 1 ns with flexible pulse-shaping, and two “short-pulse” beams, each delivering up to 500 J at 1053 nm in 0.5 ps (1 PW), with one operating in the second harmonic delivering ultra-high contrast. These beams are focussed on a target in a 4 m diameter vacuum chamber. This dual pulse design enables the compression of a target with the long-pulse beams, target heating with one short pulse and diagnosis with the second short pulse. Orion comes with a suite of fixed and TIM based plasma diagnostics.
Research highlights

Orion laser facility 
Aldermaston, Reading, UK


Contact: Colin Danson

Matter in extreme conditions

‘Modelling K shell spectra from short pulse heated buried microdot targets. [D Hoarty et al., High Energy Density Physics 23 178 (2017)] 

Material Strength

‘X-ray diffraction data from shock-compressed copper: Some consequences of metallurgical texture. [J. M. Foster et al., Journal of Applied Physics 129, 245904 (2021)] 

Laboratory Astrophysics (academic access)  

‘Counterpropagating Radiative Shock Experiments on the Orion Laser.  [F Suzuki-Vidal et al Physical Review Letters 119 055001 (2017)

Magnetic recombination (academic access)

‘Observations of pressure anisotropy effects within semi-collisional magnetized plasma bubbles. [E Tubman et al., Nature Communications 12:334 (2021)]  

EMP studies

‘Laser produced electromagnetic pulses: generation, detection and mitigation. [Fabrizio Consoli et al., High Power Laser Science and Engineering, Vol 8 e22 (2020)]   


Orion plays a key role in AWE’s core mission to support the safety, reliability and performance of nuclear   warheads throughout their lifecycle under the UK’s ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty   (CTBT), which bans live testing. It can replicate the extreme temperatures, pressures and densities found   at the heart of a nuclear explosion for the study and understand the physics phenomena that occur in   these environments.

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Orion also dedicates a proportion of its time for collaborative academic research in the UK with   international collaboration, which is managed through an academic peer-review process by the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Academic research ranges from the conditions relevant to inertial confinement fusion, planetary and solar physics, high-energy particle acceleration, and much more.

(Pictures courtesy of AWE - The Orion laser hall   and Orion’s 4m diameter target interaction chamber)