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December 23, 1999

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Sandia readies Department of Energy's Multispectral Thermal Imager satellite for launch

[Gary Webb]
Gary Webb of Sandia National Laboratories makes some final payload checks on the Sandia-integrated Multispectral Thermal Imager satellite, seen here without its four fold-out solar panels. (Photo by Randy Montoya)
Download 300dpi JPEG image, 'MTIprep.jpg', 1.5Mb (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Launch preparations are scheduled to begin next week for a Department of Energy research satellite developed in New Mexico.

The Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite developed at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories includes a sophisticated telescope that collects day and night ground images in 15 spectral bands ranging from the visible to long-wave infrared. The unique imager, which was designed and built by Sandia and calibrated in a special facility at Los Alamos, gives the satellite the ability to "see" reflected and thermally radiated electromagnetic waves that are not visible to the human eye, with performance currently achievable only in a laboratory setting.

MTI's three-year R&D mission objectives are to advance the state-of-the-art in multispectral and thermal imaging, image processing, and associated technologies and to better understand the utility of these technologies. To achieve these objectives, researchers at Sandia, Los Alamos, and other DOE facilities will compare satellite images to "ground truth data" simultaneously collected from volunteer U.S. sites that have been instrumented by DOE's Savannah River Technology Center.

Because the technology is expected to have a broad range of national defense and civilian applications ranging from treaty monitoring to mapping of chemical spills, waste heat pollution in lakes and rivers, vegetation health, and volcanic activity, the Department of Energy has established an MTI Users Group, comprising more than 100 researchers from 50 national defense and civilian agencies. These researchers will conduct similar experiments using MTI images of instrumented ground sites.

The satellite also carries a High-energy X-ray Spectrometer (HXRS) sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and developed by Space Devices, Ltd. of the Czech Republic. This instrument will collect data needed to better understand a rare species of solar flare known to be associated with high-energy particle storms that can endanger astronauts and damage space equipment.

The MTI satellite is being shipped from Sandia National Laboratories on Monday, Dec. 27, to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., where the US Air Force Space and Missile Test and Evaluation Directorate will launch it into polar orbit on Feb. 20 using an Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus rocket.

The satellite's development was funded by DOE's Office of Nonproliferation and National Security, and the launch is funded by the Department of Defense's Air Force Space Test Program.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Media contact:
John German, jdgerma@sandia.gov, (505) 844-5199

Sandia technical contact:
Brian Brock, bcbrock@sandia.gov, (505) 845-9822

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