by Mark Ollig
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, from which the Internet originated, is currently working on a leading-edge, Earth-orbiting, space telescope.
DARPA states the military would find it “optimal” to have instant access to real-time images and video, from any location on earth, at any time.
They said having this specific access is needed for national security reasons.
According to DARPA, such immediate retrieval of real-time video or images from any desired location on the planet does not currently exist.
They also revealed most video and visual imagery used for military planning and operations is being obtained by aircraft.
Of course, spacecraft (namely) satellites orbiting the earth, are also used; however, they are limited in the size of their optics, or large precision reflective mirrors they are able to contain.
A program to improve optical design, called Membrane Optic Imager Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE), was started in 2010.
And yes, that’s not a typo, it’s “Exploitation.”
“MOIRE aims to create technologies that would enable future high-resolution orbital telescopes to provide real-time video and images of the Earth from Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) – roughly 22,000 miles above the planet’s surface,” as stated by DARPA.
MOIRE will be using a new type of membrane optic (flat mirrored lens), made of a special plastic, instead of currently- used glass.
The thickness of the new optics, which is housed inside wafer-thin metal “petals,” will be comparable to kitchen plastic-wrap.
This design allows its compactable configuration to be easily stored when it is launched into earth orbit.
In contrast to the Hubble, and the soon-to-be-launched James Web Space Telescope (JWST), DARPA’s new earth-orbiting telescope will be pointed at the earth, instead of away from it.
Another interesting feature about MOIRE will be the size of its mirrored lenses. They will be exceptionally larger than those used on the Hubble or JWST.
If we compare the aperture or size of the MOIRE telescopic mirrors, the Hubble is 7.9 feet, and the JWST is 22.3 feet.
So, how large will the MOIRE lens mirrors be? Hold on, folks, because the planned size is nearly 67 feet.
This would make the MOIRE the world’s largest telescopic optics ever built.
The incredible size of the optics used in this orbital telescope, will allow it to view substantial portions of the earth at one time.
Once in orbit, the MOIRE will unfold itself in order to become fully-deployed.
DARPA provided a realistic artist’s interpretation of how the fully-deployed satellite using the MOIRE optics would look when it’s in a geosynchronous earth orbit. You can view it here: http://tinyurl.com/bits-moire2.
They announced Phase 1 has been completed. This phase proved the MOIRE’s concept feasibility, and over-all design.
DARPA is now into Phase 2.
One experiment involved with this phase, consists of the manufacturing of smaller MOIRE 16.4-foot prototype primary and secondary optics. This will be used to demonstrate their effectiveness in a ground-based experiment.
Testing also includes having the smaller MOIRE telescopic optical lenses be launched, deployed, and tested in Earth orbit via the FalconSAT-7 cube satellite program, which is operated through the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA).
I suppose this means we can rest a bit more easily, knowing the MOIRE will soon be on the job, meeting our national security requirements on a world-wide basis.
Perhaps, the MOIRE could become the source of a new television reality show. It would be titled: “MOIRE on Earth.” Each week, we would tune in to visit a different place on the planet (in real-time) to see who is doing what to whom.
Yes, indeed, nothing like having the all-seeing eye-in-the-sky, keeping watch over us.
DARPA created a short, animated concept video showing the MOIRE unfolding and expanding itself while in Earth orbit: http://tinyurl.com/bits-moire3.
Additional information about MOIRE can be found at the Tactical Technology Office on the DARPA website: http://tinyurl.com/bits-moire.
(Photo from DARPA website)