DARPA Designs Giant Foldable Satellite Capable of Surveilling 40% of Earth at Once

from dailymail.co.uk: The Pentagon has designed a massive spy satellite that will dwarf any space telescope ever launched – and it point its sensitive lens back at us.

The Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE) will be capable of capturing 40 percent of the surface of the Earth at once. It will be able to beam back real-time high-resolution video and images from anywhere in the world at any time.

The satellite is the brainchild of DARPA, the Pentagon agency tasked with developing the next generation of weapons and technology for the U.S. military.

And it relies on a remarkable technological advancement that could increase the power and precision of space telescopes by several fold – while making them less costly, Wired magazine reports.

MOIRE uses massive membranes that will be shot into orbit collapsed, but once aloft, can expand to 68 feet in diameter.

Currently, the largest ground-based telescope is about half that size. The space-based Hubble Telescope is less than eight feet in diameter.

The membrane will be the thickness of household kitchen wrap, but will diffract light – instead of reflecting it or refracting it with mirrors like traditional glass optics.

Until now, the scope and precision of space telescopes was limited by the size of their lens, which are quickly becoming too heavy and expensive to carry into space – even for the largest rockets.

‘Membrane optics could enable us to fit much larger, higher-resolution telescopes in smaller and lighter packages,’ Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gunn, a program manager for MOIRE, told Wired.

‘In that respect, we’re “breaking the glass ceiling” that traditional materials impose on optics design.’

The MOIRE satellite will be both cheaper to produce and cheaper to deploy, if the design works out because it doesn’t require the high-quality glass.

DARPA has already tested a ground-based prototype of the project.

Researchers will now move into the final phase of the project.

No completion date has been made publicly available as yet.  

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