In which NASA gets presented with two Hubble class wide field space telescopes…
Oh my. So some of the mysterious maneuverings at NASA’s Astrophysics division can now be better understood.
The National Reconnaissance Office was sitting on a couple of spare space telescopes they are willing to transfer to NASA.
These are presumably late block Keyhole reconnaissance satellite spares, maybe even the two extras orders a few years ago at the end of the program.
So, state of the art as of 10-20 years ago.
We are looking at two partial telescopes, with a Hubble size primary mirror, 2.4m, but with a wide field of view and diffraction limited in the near infrared (at 1.5 microns).
These are very nice telescopes.
They come with an adjustable focus secondary and a tertiary mirror on a long bus with room for two wide field instruments, and maybe two smaller narrow field instruments.
The resolution is comparable to Hubble, slightly better in the near infrared. But the field of view is about 100 times larger, which makes a big difference for a lot of science.
A group of lucky select scientists were give a peek at the toys and got to do some spec’ing of what could be done.
The spacecraft need power, electronics, comms, and steering.
As well as instruments and launch.
And, of course, MODA – Mission Operations and Data Analysis.
Paul Hertz – New Developments in Astronomy and Astrophysics
– NASA’s Paul Hertz summary of what we have
Alan Dressler – Implications of New Developments in Astronomy and Astrophysics
– excellent exposition from Carnegie’s Alan Dressler on what could be done with these.
Lots of model science presentation.
The primary thinking is a fast and cheap WFIRST,
stick a 16 chip Hawaii 4RG camera on the back of one and get it up to GEO (probably as best orbit tradeoff).
Squeeze in some secondary science to keep everyone else happy and then try to fit the second unit for some complementary science.
We are probably talking roughly $1 billion to outfit and launch each telescope – just the instruments are O($100M) each and you’d want 2-4 instruments per spacecraft.
Power, electronics, comms and steering cost some also.
MODA would be $30-50M per year at a guess.
There is no money in the budget to do this, unless something gives, BUT, it is still cheaper and faster than doing it from scratch.
Gonna have some fun with the new toys, hopefully.
Really makes you wonder what the new generation recon satellites that the NRO has can do though…