The Origins Space Telescope will trace the history of our origins from the time dust and heavy elements permanently altered the cosmic landscape to present-day life. How did galaxies evolve from the earliest galactic systems to those found in the universe today? How do habitable planets form? How common are life-bearing worlds? To answer these alluring questions, Origins will operate at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths and offer powerful spectroscopic instruments and sensitivity three orders of magnitude better than that of Herschel, the largest telescope flown in space to date. After a 3 ½ year study, the Origins Science and Technology Definition Team will recommend to the Decadal Survey a concept for Origins with a 5.9-m diameter telescope cryocooled to 4.5 K and equipped with three scientific instruments. A mid-infrared instrument (MISC-T) will measure the spectra of transiting exoplanets in the 2.8 – 20 μm wavelength range and offer unprecedented sensitivity, enabling definitive biosignature detections. The Far-IR Imager Polarimeter (FIP) will be able to survey thousands of square degrees with broadband imaging at 50 and 250 μm. The Origins Survey Spectrometer (OSS) will cover wavelengths from 25 – 588 μm, make wide-area and deep spectroscopic surveys with spectral resolving power R ~ 300, and pointed observations at R ~ 40,000 and 300,000 with selectable instrument modes. Origins was designed to minimize complexity. The telescope has a Spitzer-like architecture and requires very few deployments after launch. The cryo-thermal system design leverages JWST technology and experience. A combination of current-state-of-the-art cryocoolers and next-generation detector technology will enable Origins’ natural backgroundlimited sensitivity.
The Origins Space Telescope (OST) mission concept study is the subject of one of the four science and technology definition studies supported by NASA Headquarters to prepare for the 2020 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. OST will survey the most distant galaxies to discern the rise of metals and dust and to unveil the co-evolution of galaxy and blackhole formation, study the Milky Way to follow the path of water from the interstellar medium to habitable worlds in planetary systems, and measure biosignatures from exoplanets. This paper describes the science drivers and how they drove key requirements for OST Mission Concept 2, which will operate between ~5 and ~600 microns with a JWST sized telescope. Mission Concept 2 for the OST study optimizes the engineering for the key science cases into a powerful and more economical observatory compared to Mission Concept 1.
The Origins Space Telescope (OST) will trace the history of our origins from the time dust and heavy elements permanently altered the cosmic landscape to present-day life. How did the universe evolve in response to its changing ingredients? How common are life-bearing planets? To accomplish its scientific objectives, OST will operate at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths and offer superlative sensitivity and new spectroscopic capabilities. The OST study team will present a scientifically compelling, executable mission concept to the 2020 Decadal Survey in Astrophysics. To understand the concept solution space, our team studied two alternative mission concepts. We report on the study approach and describe both of these concepts, give the rationale for major design decisions, and briefly describe the mission-enabling technology.
SPHEREx, a mission in NASA’s Medium Explorer (MIDEX) program recently selected for Phase-A implementation, is an all-sky survey satellite that will produce a near-infrared spectrum for every 6 arcsecond pixel on the sky. SPHEREx has a simple, high-heritage design with large optical throughput to maximize spectral mapping speed. While the legacy data products will provide a rich archive of spectra for the entire astronomical community to mine, the instrument is optimized for three specific scientific goals: to probe inflation through the imprint primordial non-Gaussianity left on today’s large-scale cosmological structure; to survey the Galactic plane for water and other biogenic ices through absorption line studies; and to constrain the history of galaxy formation through power spectra of background fluctuations as measured in deep regions near the ecliptic poles. The aluminum telescope consists of a heavily baffled, wide-field off-axis reflective triplet design. The focal plane is imaged simultaneously by two mosaics of H2RG detector arrays separated by a dichroic beamsplitter. SPHEREx assembles spectra through the use of mass and volume efficient linear variable filters (LVFs) included in the focal plane assemblies, eliminating the need for any dispersive or moving elements. Instead, spectra are constructed through a series of small steps in the spacecraft attitude across the sky, modulating the location of an object within the FOV and varying the observation wavelength in each exposure. The spectra will cover the wavelength range between 0.75 and 5.0 µm at spectral resolutions ranging between R=35 and R=130. The entire telescope is cooled passively by a series of three V-groove radiators below 80K. An additional stage of radiative cooling is included to reduce the long wavelength focal plane temperature below 60K, controlling the dark current. As a whole, SPHEREx requires no new technologies and carries large technical and resource margins on every aspect of the design.