The Origins Space Telescope (OST) will trace the history of our origins from the time dust and heavy elements permanently altered the cosmic landscape to present-day life. How did the universe evolve in response to its changing ingredients? How common are life-bearing planets? To accomplish its scientific objectives, OST will operate at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths and offer superlative sensitivity and new spectroscopic capabilities.
The OST study team will present a scientifically compelling, executable mission concept to the 2020 Decadal Survey in Astrophysics. To understand the concept solution space, our team studied two alternative mission concepts. We report on the study approach and describe both of these concepts, give the rationale for major design decisions, and briefly describe the mission-enabling technology.
The Origins Space Telescope (OST) concept is one of four NASA Science Mission Directorate, Astrophysics Division, observatory concepts being studied for launch in the mid 2030’s. OST’s wavelength coverage will be from the midinfrared to the sub-millimeter, 6-600 microns. To enable observations at the zodiacal background limit the telescope must be cooled to about 4 K. Combined with the telescope size (currently the primary is 9 m in diameter) this appears to be a daunting task. However, simple calculations and thermal modeling have shown the cooling power required is met with several currently developed cryocoolers. Further, the telescope thermal architecture is greatly simplified, allowing simpler models, more thermal margin, and higher confidence in the final performance values than previous cold observatories. We will describe design principles to simplify modeling and verification. We will argue that the OST architecture and design principles lower its integration and test time and reduce its ultimate cost.
The current generation of precision radial velocity (RV) spectrographs are seeing-limited instruments. In order to achieve high spectral resolution on 8m class telescopes, these spectrographs require large optics and in turn, large instrument volumes. Achieving milli-Kelvin thermal stability for these systems is challenging but is vital in order to obtain a single measurement RV precision of better than 1m/s. This precision is crucial to study Earth-like exoplanets within the habitable zone. iLocater is a next generation RV instrument being developed for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). Unlike seeinglimited RV instruments, iLocater uses adaptive optics (AO) to inject a diffraction-limited beam into single-mode fibers. These fibers illuminate the instrument spectrograph, facilitating a diffraction-limited design and a small instrument volume compared to present-day instruments. This enables intrinsic instrument stability and facilitates precision thermal control. We present the current design of the iLocater cryostat which houses the instrument spectrograph and the strategy for its thermal control. The spectrograph is situated within a pair of radiation shields mounted inside an MLI lined vacuum chamber. The outer radiation shield is actively controlled to maintain instrument stability at the sub-mK level and minimize effects of thermal changes from the external environment. An inner shield passively dampens any residual temperature fluctuations and is radiatively coupled to the optical board. To provide intrinsic stability, the optical board and optic mounts will be made from Invar and cooled to 58K to benefit from a zero coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) value at this temperature. Combined, the small footprint of the instrument spectrograph, the use of Invar, and precision thermal control will allow long-term sub-milliKelvin stability to facilitate precision RV measurements.
We are developing a stable and precise spectrograph for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) named “iLocater.” The instrument comprises three principal components: a cross-dispersed echelle spectrograph that operates in the YJ-bands (0.97-1.30 μm), a fiber-injection acquisition camera system, and a wavelength calibration unit. iLocater will deliver high spectral resolution (R~150,000-240,000) measurements that permit novel studies of stellar and substellar objects in the solar neighborhood including extrasolar planets. Unlike previous planet-finding instruments, which are seeing-limited, iLocater operates at the diffraction limit and uses single mode fibers to eliminate the effects of modal noise entirely. By receiving starlight from two 8.4m diameter telescopes that each use “extreme” adaptive optics (AO), iLocater shows promise to overcome the limitations that prevent existing instruments from generating sub-meter-per-second radial velocity (RV) precision. Although optimized for the characterization of low-mass planets using the Doppler technique, iLocater will also advance areas of research that involve crowded fields, line-blanketing, and weak absorption lines.
The Terrestrial Planet Finder Coronagraph (TPF-C) is conducting pre-formulation design and analysis studies based on a 8x3.5m elliptical aperture, light-weight primary mirror feeding an internally occulted (Lyot) coronagraph. The primary mirror has challenging static and dynamic performance requirements. We report on recent trade studies and concepts including open- and closed-back mirror blank designs and comparisons of thermal and mechanical performance; aperture shape alternatives to better match the coronagraph application with weight, packaging, and fabrication constraints; and mirror material trades.