DARPA's new spy satellite could provide real-time video from anywhere on Earth

December 21, 2011 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
Artist concept of the Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE). Credit: DARPA

“It sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” could be the theme song for a new spy satellite being developed by DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s latest proof-of-concept project is called the Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE), and would provide real-time images and video of any place on Earth at any time — a capability that, so far, only exists in the realm of movies and science fiction. The details of this huge eye-in-the-sky look like something right out of science fiction, as well, and it would be interesting to determine if it could have applications for astronomy as well.

MOIRE would be a geosynchronous orbital system that uses a huge but lightweight membrane optic. A 20-meter-wide membrane “eye” would be etched with a diffractive pattern, according to , which would focus light on a sensor. Reportedly it will cost $500 million USD for each space-based telescope, and it would be able to image an area greater than 100 x 100 km with a video update rate of at least one frame a second.

DARPA says the program aims to demonstrate the ability to manufacture large membranes and 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 is now in the first phase of development, where DARPA is testing the concept’s viability. Phase 2 would entail system design, with Ball Aerospace doing the design and building to test a 16-foot (5 m) telescope, and an option for a Phase 3 which would include a demonstration of the system, launching a 32-foot (10 m) telescope for flight tests in orbit.

The 20 meter (66 ft) design is quite a bit larger than NASA’s next-generation James Webb Space Telescope that has an aperture of 21 feet (6.5 m).

Public Intelligence reports that such a should be able to spot missile launcher vehicles moving at speeds of up to 60 mph on the ground, according to a DARPA contract. That would also require the image resolution to see objects less than 10 feet (3 m) long within a single image pixel.

Can we order one for looking for extrasolar planets?

Explore further: DARPA unveils new telescope to protect satellites from space debris

More information: Read more about the MOIRE on DARPA’s website.

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1.4 / 5 (11) Dec 21, 2011
It sees you when youre sleeping and knows when youre awake

Is not reassuring when we know world leaders are communicating among themselves and cooperating to control the world:

3.8 / 5 (6) Dec 21, 2011
Is not reassuring when we know world leaders are communicating among themselves and cooperating to control the world:


I should hope so. It's their job, Mr. Paranoid. Oh, and your link is evidence of nothing, other than scientific cooperation.
4.8 / 5 (5) Dec 21, 2011
maybe iam missing something but "...greater then 100x100km at 1fps.." is not "...video of any place on Earth at any time..."
Dec 21, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (10) Dec 21, 2011
Correct broken link:

5 / 5 (5) Dec 21, 2011
Interesting looking design. I wish they had talked more about how it works.

However, to imply that it sees whether you are awake, may be a bit far fetched for something that only barely can see objects less than three meters (10ft) long.
4.4 / 5 (7) Dec 21, 2011
Correct broken link:


Too bad it isn't an easy to fix your broken brain.
Stop spamming this site with your paranoia and 'theories' that have little basis in REAL science. There is a reason why you haven't been given the Nobel Prize... you are incorrect. Let it go already.
not rated yet Dec 21, 2011
It seems as though it's a nice large area, but this isnt all that new. We've been able to zoom way in picture wise since at least 1998 that I know of. Probably before that... Guess the 'publicly' disclosed info is far behind no matter we read about *NEW* DARPA tech.
5 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
Correct broken link:


Everybody 'report abuse' this guy, PLEASE
not rated yet Dec 21, 2011
Well, that will make a target for lasers >;)
not rated yet Dec 21, 2011
Since some spy satellites have imaging almost as good as Hubble, but pointing down, this is probably old news
1.6 / 5 (5) Dec 21, 2011
There is a related news item of interest tonight:

not rated yet Dec 22, 2011
maybe iam missing something but "...greater then 100x100km at 1fps.." is not "...video of any place on Earth at any time..."

That was my first question also. I expected to see 5,000 of them and then they show this and say that!?
5 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2011
i suppose many spy satellites have a high resolution like that but for zoomed in to a much smaller area, like you are zooming in on a known missile site/factory of a few hundred meters, this however would enable more new random discoveries of dynamical troop movements in the broader strategic theatre and how several movements spread by many miles are correlated in real time, you would have to do several flyovers with an old fashioned spy satellite to cover that same area in detail, but you will lose time/track of what happens in between.
1 / 5 (5) Dec 22, 2011
Private communications and fears in world leaders undoubtedly played a major role in the unfolding Climategate scandal, the suppression of experimental observations on the Sun, and the dismantling of the Apollo program that President Kennedy had started in 1960:


Was the simultaneous collapse of Western science and Western economies a remarkable coincidence?


Either way there is a Holiday Message of Hope in every atom, leaf and rock: The universe is in good hands!


So be of good cheer!
Evan From Heaven
not rated yet Dec 22, 2011
DARPA means to say "refractive" pattern, not "diffractive." To focus an image the membrane (or lens) must refract light. If you diffract light, you split it up into a rainbow of colors, as for a spectrometer.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 26, 2011
Oliver, do you not know of phase 2 of the plan? see kissinger and nixon knew about neutron repulsion and it being the main source of the suns and the universes power but chairman mao did not. as the world all followed their lead in the conspiracy they said it was to prevent nuclear war. however under the guise of that the united states had different reasons. as the climatoligists/scientists destroy our economy and power while funneling money to third world nations for supportung the scam the chinese will soon grow too strong and overpopulated for anyone but the us to even have a chance of stopping the chinese from taking over the world, at that moment neutron repulsion will be officially "discovered" and cheap easy neutron repulsion energy will be used both to power production of weapons and supplies and as weapons of mass destruction themselves in neutron repulsion bombs. saving the united states and allowing us to finally take over the whole world without looking like the bad guys...

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