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NASA Funds Tech Maturation Projects For Future Telescopes

JUN 04, 2024
The grants aim to lay the groundwork for a telescope focused on searching for life outside the solar system.
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Science Policy Reporter, FYI American Institute of Physics
Habitable worlds satellite concept art

An artist’s concept of one of the initial possible designs for NASA’s Habitable Worlds Observatory.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

Last week, NASA selected three proposals from industry to help mature technologies needed for the proposed Habitable Worlds Observatory mission, which would focus on searching for life outside our solar system.

Billed as a “historically ambitious mission” by Mark Clampin, astrophysics division director at NASA, the telescope would require, for example, an optical system that does not move more than an atom’s width during observations.

The industry awards total $17.5 million, split between BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. In announcing the awards, NASA also noted it is in the process of establishing a Habitable Worlds Observatory Technology Maturation project office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

These actions respond to the latest astronomy decadal survey’s recommendation that NASA dedicate more resources to refining technologies needed for flagship telescopes before it commits to cost estimates, drawing on lessons learned from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Clampin and the former chief scientist of the Webb telescope, John Mather, will discuss NASA’s approach to developing next-generation telescopes at an event this Wednesday hosted by AIP. The event will be livestreamed.

This news brief originally appeared in FYI’s newsletter for the week of June 3.

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