The science missions of the Astrophysics Division are enabled by technologies developed through the Division’s technology development programs. The Division receives periodic input from various advisory groups, and the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, to plan future science missions and identify the necessary technology development to enable those missions.
There are four Program elements within the Astrophysics Division that execute technology development activities: Cosmic Origins (COR), Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS), Exoplanet Exploration (EXEP), and the Astrophysics Research Program. Technology efforts in the Division are procured through both directed and competed processes.
The PCOS, COR, and EXEP programs develop and operate the Division’s strategic science missions. Thus, each of these programs conduct strategic technology development activities to enable future missions and to support early phase mission development. Each has a formal Technology Development Plan to guide its technology development activities, and maintains an annual report that documents the status of currently funded activities. Annual assessments identify future technology development needs based on the science goals of each program.
The PCOS, COR, and EXEP Programs conduct competed technology development efforts through a Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) element known as Strategic Astrophysics Technology (SAT) that specifically targets technology developments that bridge the technology readiness level (TRL) 3-6 gap. SAT developed technologies are essential to enable strategic missions that specifically address the key science goals of the Astrophysics Decadal Survey recommendations. The three SAT elements for PCOS, COR, and EXEP are named Technology Development for Physics of the Cosmos (TPCOS), Technology Development for Cosmic Origins Program (TCOP), and Technology Development for Exo-Planet Missions (TDEM) respectively. In contrast to these competed efforts, each program also conducts directed technology development activities that are carried out as elements of specific strategic science missions during early development phases.
The Astrophysics Research Program competitively solicits low TRL (1-3) technology development activities of a more general nature through the Astrophysics Research and Analysis (APRA) Program element of ROSES. APRA is intended to support basic research of new technologies and feasibility demonstrations that may enable future science missions. For example, APRA seeks technology development of advanced detectors that may be proposed as instruments for future space flight experiments. APRA also supports suborbital science investigations that typically involve a significant level of technology development.