The Multispectral Thermal Imager Satellite (MTI), launched on March 12, 2000, has now surpassed its one-year mission requirement and its three-year mission goal. Primary and secondary program objectives regarding the development and evaluation of space-based multispectral and thermal imaging technology for nonproliferation treaty monitoring and other national security and civilian application have been met. Valuable lessons have also been learned, both from things that worked especially well and from shortcomings and anomalies encountered. This paper addresses lessons associated with the satellite, ground station and system operations, while companion papers address lessons associated with radiometric calibration, band-to-band registration and scientific processes and results. Things addressed in this paper that went especially well include overall satellite design, ground station design, system operations, and integration and test. Anomalies and other problems addressed herein include gyro and mass storage unit failures, battery under-voltage trips, a blown fuse, unexpected effects induced by communication link noise, ground station problems, and anomalies resulting from human error. In spite of MTI’s single-string design, the operations team has been successful in working around these problems, and the satellite continues to collect valuable mission data.
The Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) is a research and development project sponsored by the Department of Energy and executed by Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Savannah River Technology Center. Other participants include the U.S. Air Force, universities, and many industrial partners. The MTI mission is to demonstrate the efficacy of highly accurate multispectral imaging for passive characterization of industrial facilities and related environmental impacts from space. MTI provides simultaneous data for atmospheric characterization at high spatial resolution. Additionally, MTI has applications to environmental monitoring and other civilian applications. The mission is based in end-to-end modeling of targets, signatures, atmospheric effects, the space sensor, and analysis techniques to form a balanced, self-consistent mission. The MTI satellite nears completion, and is scheduled for launch in late 1999. This paper describes the MTI mission, development of desired system attributes, some trade studies, schedule, and overall plans for data acquisition and analysis. This effort drives the sophisticated payload and advanced calibration systems, which are the overall subject of the first session at this conference, as well as the data processing and some of the analysis tools that will be described in the second segment.
MTI is a comprehensive research and development project that includes up-front modeling and analysis, satellite system design, fabrication, assembly and testing, on-orbit operations, and experimentation and data analysis. The satellite is designed to collect radiometrically calibrated, medium resolution imagery in 15 spectral bands ranging from 0.45 to 10.70 micrometer. The payload portion of the satellite includes the imaging system components, associated electronics boxes, and payload support structure. The imaging system includes a three-mirror anastigmatic off-axis telescope, a single cryogenically cooled focal plane assembly, a mechanical cooler, and an onboard calibration system. Payload electronic subsystems include image digitizers, real-time image compressors, a solid state recorder, calibration source drivers, and cooler temperature and vibration controllers. The payload support structure mechanically integrates all payload components and provides a simple four point interface to the spacecraft bus. All payload components have been fabricated and tested, and integrated.