B-612 Plans Infrared Asteroid Seeking Telescope

The B-612 Foundation is set to unveil plans for its privately-funded asteroid hunting orbital telescope on Thursday at noon EDT (9 a.m. PDT; 1600 GMT) during a press conference in San Francisco.

Bill Nye the Science Guy provided some early intel on the project for about 40 attendees at the monthly LA Space Salon on Wednesday. Nye, who is scheduled to fly up to San Francisco for the press conference on Thursday morning, described the plan as follows:

The foundation will place an infrared telescope (originally called Sentinel but since renamed) into space at approximately the orbit of Venus (.7 AU). It will look out at the solar system with the sun at its back. An infrared instrument is being used because asteroids reflect well in this spectrum. It is believed that there are as many as 100,000 Earth-crossing asteroids.

Funding for the telescope is coming from investors in Silicon Valley. Nye mentioned that officials had met with Elon Musk of SpaceX, although he wasn’t clear on whether the company had agreed to launch the telescope.

UPDATE:  The telescope is indeed called SENTINEL and plans call for launching it on a SpaceX Falcon 9.