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New Congressional Funding to Continue Development of New Mexico Observatory

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Congress has committed $6.2 million to advance the development of a new optical telescope complex for characterizing space objects at geosynchronous Earth orbit and beyond in Socorro, New Mexico.

The money enables New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology to complete the first phase of the $30 million Magdalen Ridge Observatory Interferometer project, Air Force Research Laboratory, the funding contract manager, said Monday.

Once completed in 2026, MROI will feature three telescopes and two scientific instruments that promise more efficient imaging and higher resolution photos than existing arrays.

“If successful, this effort will enable us to leverage new, innovative sensing instruments that, while directly advancing astronomical sciences, could also augment space domain awareness and defense,” explained Brian Engberg, head of AFRL’s space control branch.

Van Romero, vice president for research and professor of physics at NMT, noted that the observatory will enable the assessment of orbiting man-made objects and the study of various phenomena in deep space.