Proposals Sought for Two NASA Space Telescopes

Two space telescopes given to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office, both of which have characteristics similar to the Hubble Space Telescope (seen here), are being opened up for proposals for innovative uses. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA is looking into a variety of potential uses for two of the space agency’s space-based telescopes. The telescopes are not the famous Hubble, Chandra, or Spitzer telescopes; rather they are ones that were given to the space agency by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

NASA issued a request for information (RFI) Monday looking for concepts that would accomplish NASA’s objectives in fields such as helio and astrophysics, human spaceflight, and planetary science.

These two telescopes are similar in aperture to NASA’s vaunted Hubble Space Telescope. The difference between them and Hubble is the field of view, as these NRO telescopes have a far greater field of view.

NASA has already got some initial ideas for how to use the telescopes. These fall into the range of wide field infrared survey. This would go a long way toward fulfilling the top priority of the National Research Council’s 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

This RFI seeks to use NASA’s new telescopes to their maximum potential. As mentioned in an article appearing on this website earlier this year, the NRO gave NASA two KH-11 type digital imaging reconnaissance telescopes. These were kept top secret for about 36 years.

“Because there are two telescopes, there is room for projects that span the gamut of the imagination,” said Michael Moore, a senior program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “They range from simple balloon flights to complex missions in science using new technologies under development and the capabilities available with the International Space Station and our commercial space flight partners.”

NASA is seeking out concepts as the agency works to diversify its investments in science and technology. The organizations with the most intriguing uses for the telescopes will be invited to detail their proposals during a workshop that will be held in Huntsville, Ala., in February of next year.

“We will give all ideas equal consideration and choose the most promising for further study,” said Marc Allen, acting deputy associate administrator for research in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We want to tap into innovative ideas wherever we can find them in order to optimize use of these telescope assets.”


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