Ultra-high power (exceeding the self-focusing threshold by more than three orders of magnitude) light beams from ground-based laser systems may find applications in space-debris cleaning. The propagation of such powerful laser beams through the atmosphere reveals many novel interesting features compared to traditional light self-focusing. It is demonstrated here that for the relevant laser parameters, when the thickness of the atmosphere is much shorter than the focusing length (that is, of the orbit scale), the beam transit through the atmosphere in lowest order produces phase distortion only. This means that by using adaptive optics it may be possible to eliminate the impact of self-focusing in the atmosphere on the laser beam. The area of applicability of the proposed "thin window" model is broader than the specific physical problem considered here. For instance, it might find applications in femtosecond laser material processing.