The Prague Asterix Laser System (PALS) is a new international laboratory where research teams are invited to compete for the beam time. The PALS Center runs an iodine photodissociation high-power laser system delivering up to 1.2 kJ of energy in ∼400 ps pulses at the wavelength of 1.315 μm. Optional doubling and tripling of the frequency is assured by large-diameter nonlinear crystals. The ASTERIX IV laser [H. Baumhacker et al., Appl. Phys. B 61, 325 (1995)], transferred from Garching into a new laser hall in Prague, was updated and put into operation on 8 June 2000. These upgrades include new beam delivery options and a twin interaction chamber, which is designed flexibly for a broad spectrum of applications. Results of the first series of experiments are presented and some planned upgrades are briefly described. These include implementation of adaptive optics, replacement of the iodine master oscillator by a more flexible solid state oscillator based on fiber optics, and a femtosecond extension of the laser output to reach the petawatt pulse power region.

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