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Lindsay Millard: DARPA Seeks Ideas to Create Earth Orbit Telescope System

Surface Water and Ocean Topography spacecraftThe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking industry feedback to the agency’s plan to develop ground-based telescope systems intended to monitor objects in geosynchronous Earth orbit.

DARPA said Monday it has issued a request for information that solicits ideas for a sparse-aperture interferometer capable of measuring interference light patterns detected by smaller telescopes.

The agency wants an interferometer system that uses solar illumination or thermal self-emission from imaged objects in order to address current physical limitations to high-resolution GEO-imaging technology.

“We’re looking for ideas on how to create ground-based sparse aperture telescope systems that would provide GEO imagery as clear as current LEO imagery,” said Lindsay Millard, DARPA program manager.

Millard added that the “100x zoom lens” would help satellite owners “assess anomalies that happen to GEO satellites” and “fix problems” in order to prolong satellites’ operation.

“Beyond helping us achieve our immediate needs on orbit, that improvement could significantly advance astronomy research, helping us learn about black holes and galaxy dynamics, as well as characterizing nearby exoplanets and detecting more-distant ones,” she said.

DARPA asks respondents to tackle information on direct atmospheric phase measurement, meter-class replicated optics and compensation of low-quality optics, image-formation algorithms and interferometry demonstration testbeds in their responses.

Submissions to this RFI will close on July 3, 2015.

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