DARPA’s mirror-killing membrane could change astronomy, allow total global surveillance
2013-12-06 0:00

By Graham Templeton | Extreme Tech



When it launches in 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope will let us see deeper into the universe than ever before. Its enormous eye is centered around 18 octagonal mirrors which assemble to form the largest telescope mirror ever built, but someday even the James Webb Telescope (formerly the Next-Gen Space Telescope) will outlive its usefulness — and then what will we do? The obvious answer is to launch an even more advanced telescope, one with an even bigger mirror that can focus on even more distant or difficult light. There’s just one problem: given the costs and practical barriers to launching objects into space, it’s very possible that in this case simply going bigger may be impossible.

That’s where DARPA comes in. The agency has always liked playing smarter — rather than harder — and has a stated goal of allowing its government to view any point on the planet, instantly and in real-time. That being the case, they needed to develop a way of launching surveillance satellites much more cheaply. DARPA has looked into everything from satellite miniaturization to Hyperloop style drone throwers, but a satellite’s mirror is the hardest part to launch in most cases. In a move sure to excite cash-strapped astronomers and terrify nervous libertarians, DARPA now says it could have a way around that problem, making high-fidelity space cameras much quicker and cheaper to launch.

View the video below for a quick artist’s rendering.



Called MOIRE, or Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation, the project looks to replace one of the heaviest and most troublesome elements in astronomy. Rather than using enormous mirrors or thick, dense lenses to reflect or refract the light into a collector, MOIRE uses membranes about as thick as kitchen plastic wrap to diffract light onto the satellite’s collector. MOIRE will launch in a compact state, its version of a mirror mounted on the front in the form of folded, concentric “petals” of this membrane. When the mission reaches its destination, these petals will unfold into huge sails, providing a focusing element larger than any mirror could realistically be.

[...]

There’s no word on the costs of actually manufacturing the membrane, but since its primary functional element is the etching rather than the material itself, this could bring down the costs of satellite manufacturing, as well. Independent teams are already launching small satellites; what if those small satellites could carry a membrane of a size with Hubble’s mirror? More to the point, if a team of enthusiasts could do that with a few hundred thousand dollars, what could a national space agency do with a few hundred million? What could DARPA do with several billion, or its military masters with even more?

Read the full article at: extremetech.com




Related Articles
Revealed: The Surveillance Industrial Complex
White House: NSA Surveillance Transparency Would Be Too Much Work
Seattle police (allegedly) deactivate surveillance system after public outrage
TSA To Roll Out "Covert Surveillance" Vans
Americans need more protection from NSA surveillance: committee chairman
Obama stops NSA spying on IMF and World Bank
DARPA envisions troops controlling platforms with their minds
Mind Control: DARPA works on reading brains in real time
DARPA Wants a Searchable Database of All Your Conversations
DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System


Latest News from our Front Page

As Greece Falls, Will Those With Gardens Survive?
2015-07-06 19:35
Greeks don't want austerity, but the future is bleak and unknown. As of Friday, grocery shelves were being stripped bare of staple cooking goods, and pharmacies ran out of crucial medicines like thyroxine (thyroid treatment). More than half of those items are imported, but with banking plugs, companies are unable to pay suppliers. Things are frozen; stopped, and tens of thousands ...
Rise of the super soldier: Liquid armour, indestructible exoskeletons and weapons that never miss revealed as the future of warfare
2015-07-06 19:17
War has been one of the greatest spurs to science in history. Developments as diverse and far-reaching as space travel, superglue, duct tape and microwaves owe their origins beneath camouflage netting and behind sandbags. Today's military innovations, though, are focused not just on getting the job done, but doing so as quickly as possible and bringing the soldiers home to their ...
Europe Survived War And Depression: Can She Survive Invasion?
2015-07-06 17:43
However the Greek crisis ends, whether with Athens leaving the Eurozone, or submitting and accepting austerity at the dictates of its creditors, the European Union appears headed for an existential crisis. Greece borrowed and spent beyond its means, like New York City in the ’70s, and Detroit, Illinois, and Puerto Rico today. But the crisis of Europe is about more than ...
Professor: Reason Itself Is A White Male Construct
2015-07-04 3:55
A philosophy and religion professor at Syracuse University gave an interview to The New York Times Thursday in which he critiqued the notion of pure reason as simply being a “white male Euro-Christian construction.” Prof. John Caputo was being interviewed by fellow philosophy professor George Yancy for the 13th installment of an interview series Yancy conducts with philosophers regarding racial topics. Given its emphasis on first principles ...
The Broken Window Fallacy
2015-07-04 3:48
Youtube description: This short video explains one of the most persistent economic fallacies of our day. Source: youtube.com
More News »