Post-Workshop Updates

Please check this space frequently.  Modifications or additions of post-workshop material will be summarized here as they occur.

8 July 2013
Since Fall 2012, NASA has been studying potential uses of the 2.4m telescope assets that were made available to the Agency by the National Reconnaissance Office in mid-2012. The studies included both (1) whether the telescope assets could be used to realize a mission that responds to the number one recommendation of the Astrophysics Decadal Survey for a wide field infrared survey telescope (WFIRST) and (2) an assessment of possible applications to other NASA objectives in science, technology, and human space flight (the Study on Applications of Large Space Optics—SALSO). The results of the studies were presented to the NASA Administrator and other senior officials across the Agency on May 30, 2013.

The focused astrophysics study showed that for approximately the same costs, the telescope assets would enable a WFIRST mission with significantly improved science capabilities relative to the design described in the Astrophysics Decadal Survey. Use of the telescope assets would also enable the addition of an exoplanet imaging instrument to WFIRST that would enable imaging and characterization of planets around nearby stars up to a decade earlier than contemplated in the Decadal Survey. The results of the broader SALSO survey were also presented, including the objectives and characteristics of the seven concepts chosen after the Huntsville, AL, workshop in early February as the most promising for further study.

The Administrator directed the Science Mission Directorate to continue pre-formulation activities for a mission using the 2.4m telescope assets to prepare for a later decision as to whether a WFIRST mission would be undertaken with these optics. No decision on a future wide field infrared survey mission is expected until early 2016. There was no decision to proceed with design studies for the SALSO concepts at this time.

15 February 2013
Following the workshop, the Marshall organizing group met with the Technical Area Experts team to assess presentations and combine similar concepts into packages.  These candidates for follow-on design center studies have been forwarded to Headquarters for next step guidance.  No further information is available regarding design center decisions pending the outcome of these Headquarters consultations.

4 March 2013
Following the Study on Applications of Large Space Optics (SALSO) workshop in Huntsville, Alabama in early February, meeting organizers met with an expert technical review team to assemble a portfolio of concepts that would reflect the diversity of mission concept candidates that had been briefed.  The result was the following set of seven general concepts, some derived from a single presentation and others from a synthesis of several closely related ones:

  • Mars Orbiting Telescope
  • Geospace Dynamics Observatory
  • Optical Communications Node in Space
  • Space Station Thermosphere Observatory
  • Ultraviolet-Visible Telescope
  • Exoplanet Observatory
  • Faint Object Explorer

In order to determine the appropriate next steps for the SALSO study, its solicitation and consolidation process and the scientific and technology highlights of these concepts were briefed to senior NASA Agency and Mission Directorate leaders at the end of February.   Participants in the discussion were favorably impressed with the variety and quality of the submissions.  The meeting established that the next step in assessing these potential applications for the space optics should be considered in conjunction with evolving Agency budgets and priorities and the results of the Science Definition Team for the Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (AFTA) study, currently in progress. Completion and release of the AFTA study report are planned for late April or early May.  In the meantime, possible detailed follow-on design studies of a subset of the SALSO concepts will be deferred until this integrated assessment can be carried out.