Our curiosity about the Earth and outer space is as vast as the universe itself. Current orbital telescopes, made of high-density glass, are expensive and require a lot of effort to get them into space. So as researchers strive for higher-resolution images, it’s rather convenient that DARPA has created a new plastic-based orbital telescope.

DARPA has announced that this new “plastic” telescope can fold out, creating a considerably larger and cheaper lens than the traditional optics that are currently in use.

The prototype telescope has been named Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation, thankfully known as MOIRE for short.


The creators have used a polymer membrane, which is a staggering one-seventh of the weight of glass. The film, which is about the thickness of household plastic wrap, is not as efficient as glass the DARPA post said. So to counteract this, they used larger lenses, which made up the difference.

The plan is for the telescope to reach 68 feet in diamter when fully unfolded, which means that it would be able to see 40 percent of the Earth’s surface at any one time.

These optical systems could result in very powerful telescopes, which actually fit into smaller shuttles, being used for tracking weather systems or for reconnaissance missions.

[Image via DARPA]

SOURCE: http://www.engadget.com/2013/12/05/darpa-tests-ground-based-prototype-of-folding-space-telescope/