Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation
The Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE) program is a technology demonstration for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that will provide persistent, real-time, tactical video to the war fighter. To accomplish this capability, MOIRE is incrementally demonstrating the technologies needed to develop a large lightweight space-based telescope for geosynchronous orbit using advanced diffractive membrane optics.
MOIRE is demonstrating the manufacturability of large collection area telescopes (up to 20 meters), large structures to hold the optics tight and flat, and is also demonstrating the additional optical elements needed to turn a diffraction-based optic into a wide bandwidth imaging device.
The telescope concept that Ball developed employs thin (less than 1/1000th of an inch) transparent membranes etched with a diffraction pattern as the primary optical element used to focus light.
The Ball-built lightweight optics reduce the mass of large aperture telescopes by nearly an order of magnitude compared to those with conventional optics. Since costs scale roughly with spacecraft mass, one key to affordability is minimizing the mass of future space optics. This technology could lend itself to easily stowed configurations for launch within a payload shroud that could be deployed on orbit.
Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for the MOIRE program, leveraging the company’s experience in designing, manufacturing and testing large optics for programs such as the James Webb Space Telescope and Kepler.
Ball completed the first phase of MOIRE in 2011, when it successfully demonstrated the ability to create a diffracted optical element on a membrane.
Now in phase 2, Ball completed in 2013 construction and testing of one-eighth of a 5-meter-diameter annular segmented telescope and verified functionality of the MOIRE design. There are five additional risk reduction options in phase 2 before the program will build a flight demonstration.
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