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February 23, 2000

[Avalanche News release] [Sandia National Laboratories]

DOE research satellite to be launched from Vandenberg AFB early Sunday, March 12

An artist's illustration of the Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite in orbit. Download 300dpi JPEG image, 'MTIspace.jpg', 956K (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A unique Department of Energy research satellite developed in New Mexico is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at approximately 1:30 a.m. PST this Sunday, March 12.

The Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite carries a sophisticated telescope that collects day and night images of the Earth in 15 spectral bands ranging from the visible to long-wave infrared.

The unique imager, designed and built by a government and industry team led by Sandia National Laboratories and calibrated in a special facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, gives the satellite the ability to "see" reflected and thermally radiated electromagnetic waves that are not visible to the human eye, with performance previously achievable only in a laboratory setting.

[Chuck Looney & Dennis Gutierrez with MTI]
PAYLOAD PAYOFF -- Sandia engineers Chuck Looney (left) and Dennis Gutierrez make last-minute checks of the solar arrays on the Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite at the Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., prior to encapsulating the satellite in preparation for launch scheduled for early Sunday morning, March 12. Half of the satellite's protective fairing (rocket nose cone) is visible in the background with its internal (black) thermal-acoustic blankets. Download 300dpi JPEG image, 'mti.jpg', 253K (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

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, Savannah River Technology Center (SRTC), and other DOE facilities will compare satellite images to "ground truth data" simultaneously collected from volunteer U.S. sites that have been instrumented by SRTC.

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's Space Environment Center and the Czech Republic's Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, 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 associated with high-energy particle storms that can endanger astronauts and damage space equipment.

The Air Force Space and Missile Center's (SMC) Test and Evaluation Directorate plans to launch the satellite into polar orbit between 1:23 a.m. and 1:50 a.m. PST this Sunday, March 12, on an Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus rocket.

The satellite's development and on-orbit operations are 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. Other major participants include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Ball Aerospace, Raytheon, and TRW.

B-roll video:  B-roll footage of the satellite's development and launch preparation is available (contact John German, Sandia Public Affairs).

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.

VAFB Public Affairs:
(805) 606-3595

Sandia media contact:
John German, (505) 844-5199

Orbital media contact:
Barron Beneski, beneski.barron@orbital.com, (703) 406-5528

Air Force Space & Missile Center media contact:
Lt. Colleen Lehne, (310) 363-6827

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