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  • Membrane Optic Imager Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE)

    To meet national security requirements around the world, it would be optimal to have real-time images and video of any place on earth at any time—a capability that doesn’t currently exist. Today, aircraft are used to meet much of the military’s imagery requirements. However, because of the quantity of aircraft needed, and because aircraft do not fly high enough to see into denied territories, spacecraft also play a vital role in providing the imagery data needed for successful military planning and operations.

    To meet national security requirements around the world, it would be optimal to have real-time images and video of any place on earth at any time—a capability that doesn’t currently exist. Today, aircraft are used to meet much of the military’s imagery requirements. However, because of the quantity of aircraft needed, and because aircraft do not fly high enough to see into denied territories, spacecraft also play a vital role in providing the imagery data needed for successful military planning and operations.

    Spacecraft, however, face different challenges in providing persistent coverage.  The size (aperture) of the optics needed, and the limitations of producing and launching extremely large precision reflective (mirror) optics means it is infeasible to place such a system in geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), approximately 36,000 kilometers high, where it could provide persistent coverage.

    MOIRE is a ground-based experiment of a GEO-based system that uses a lightweight membrane optic etched with a diffractive pattern. The diffractive pattern is used to focus light on a sensor.  The MOIRE program seeks to develop the enabling technologies required for very large optic space platforms that reduce the areal density (the mass of the optics compared to the size of the spacecraft) by 4-5 times of current systems. The program aims to examine technologies for manufacturing large membranes (up to 20 meters), large structures to hold the optics flat, and also demonstrate the secondary optical elements needed to turn a diffraction-based optic into a wide bandwidth imaging device.

    The MOIRE program began in March 2010 and encompasses two phases. Phase 1 verified the proof of concept for the program design. Phase 2 seeks to reduce many of the risks involved in using diffractive optics for space imaging systems. Phase 2 plans to manufacture a section of a prototype five-meter primary optic, along with the required secondary optics, to demonstrate the optical sub-system in a ground-based experiment. As part of Phase 2 technology risk reduction, MOIRE plans to perform an on-orbit experiment of optical membrane imaging technologies through the United States Air Force Academy’s FalconSAT-7 program. The MOIRE program completed Phase 1 in September 2011 and is currently in Phase 2.

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