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NASA To Hold Workshop on Best Use of Its Two Free Telescopes from NRO

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 31-Jan-2013
Updated: 31-Jan-2013 05:33 PM

NASA will hold a workshop at Marshall Space Flight Center next week to discuss concepts for using the two large space telescopes it inherited from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) last year.   NRO transferred the telescopes to NASA at no cost, but NASA must come up with the money for spacecraft to put them in and related systems, as well as launch costs.

The Study on Applications for Large Space Objects (SALSO) workshop will be held February 5-6, 2013 and features as many as 34 presentations from industry, academia and government on potential uses for the telescopes.  Up to six concepts will be selected for further study at Goddard Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA revealed the existence of the gift from NRO last summer.   By all accounts, the telescopes are excellent pieces of hardware that astrophysicists would love to utilize, the problem is money.   Cost overruns on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have consumed a large portion of NASA's astrophysics budget and until it is launched in 2018, starting new large space astronomy projects is not feasible.  

The National Research Council sets priorities for NASA's astrophysics programs through the Decadal Survey process.  The most recent Decadal Survey in astrophysics, issued in 2010, identified a Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) as the top priority for the next large space mission.   JWST cost overruns pushed significant work on WFIRST out to the latter part of the decade.  One question is whether these NRO telescopes could be used to achieve WFIRST science objectives at reduced cost.

The SALSO workshop will be broadcast on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc.


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