Letters of Intent received in 2017

LoI 2019-1994
The Space Astrophysics Landscape for the New Decade: Major Missions for the 2020s and Beyond

Date: 4 November 2019 to 6 November 2019
Category: Non-GA Symposium
Location: Washington DC region, United States
Contact: Harley Thronson (Harley.A.Thronson@nasa.gov)
Coordinating division: Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
Other divisions:
Co-Chairs of SOC: Harley Thronson (NASA GSFC)
Jessica Gaskin (NASA MSFC)
Scott Gaudi (Ohio State University)
David Leisawitz (NASA GSFC)
Aki Roberge (NASA GSFC)
Co-Chairs of LOC: Harley Thronson (NASA GSFC)
Bradley Peterson (STScI)
David Leisawitz (NASA GSFC)



•Science goals for the 2020s and 2030s, which are achievable only by the most ambitious space observatories.
•Designs (and options) for the four NASA-funded “strategic” missions
•Updates and recent results from major space astronomy missions (HST, JWST, TESS, and WFIRST), their non-US counterparts, and smaller-class missions (e.g., Probes and Explorers in the US)
•Technological capabilities required or being developed for in-space assembly and servicing using astronauts and/or robots.
•Innovative post-JWST/WFIRST cost-effective optical system designs for major space observatories.



We propose a Symposium for autumn 2019 to describe and discuss in detail the science goals, current designs, and options, and priority technologies for four major “strategic” mission concepts that NASA has been studying for consideration by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ 2020 Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Updates on the HST, JWST, TESS, and WFIRST missions will also be solicited, as well as relevant non-U.S. and smaller NASA astronomy missions. In addition, major future enabling capabilities will be included: launch vehicles of the 2030s and space assembly and servicing options using astronauts and/or robots. In other words, we propose a symposium that, while emphasizing the four major astrophysics mission concepts funded by NASA over the past few years, will present a broad picture of space astrophysics science of the 2020s and 2030s.

NASA has been funding four concept studies of major “strategic” (or flagship) mission designs intended for consideration for operation beginning in the late-2020s or mid-2030s: the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx), the Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor (LUVOIR), Lynx (a major X-ray mission), and the Origins Space Telescope (OST, operating in the mid- and far-infrared). These studies will be presented to the Decadal Survey, with the intention that one or more will be recommended by the Survey to be developed as the premier observatory (or observatories) of the middle of the 21st Century. Our Symposium will present and discuss them shortly after their science goals and designs have been submitted to the Decadal Review process.

The major concept(s) recommended for development by the Decadal Survey process will not be operating in isolation. Thus, although our proposed Symposium will emphasize the four “strategic” concepts, we will solicit shorter contributions and updates on other relevant space-based missions, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. At the time of the proposed symposium, for example, both JWST and TESS are expected to be operational and WFIRST will be concluding its Phase A activities. Reports on significant progress on major non-U.S. missions also will be solicited.

In addition, significant technology capabilities to enable major space observatories designed for operation in the 2030s will be presented. The development timescale and cost of some these missions may only be justifiable if they can achieve operational lifetimes comparable to that of ground-based observatories, which is multiple decades, which would thus require in-space servicing and upgrading. Current concepts for robot- and astronaut-enabled space servicing and assembly will be presented for discussion.