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A Generation-X ultra high throughput X-ray astronomy observatory with a new mission architecture

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1 Author(s)
P. Gorenstein ; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophys., Cambridge, MA, USA

The launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory in June 1999 together with the X-ray Multi-Mirror Observatory by ESA initiated a new era in X-ray astronomy. This new generation of 1 m class facilities provides astronomers with much better imaging capability, larger collecting power and for the first time, true high resolution spectroscopy. However, most X-ray measurements will still be limited by a small number of photons. To probe more deeply into the early Universe, at the large distances where dust obscures visible light, we require future generation (“Generation-X”) 30-m class telescopes with several orders of magnitude larger collecting area than the above missions or even NASA's next generation Constellation X-ray Mission. However, this cannot be achieved within the architecture of current missions. We describe a new approach based upon formation flying between a large single focus X-ray telescope aboard its own spacecraft and a cluster of smaller spacecraft with detectors and spectrometers, at a quasi-stable point such as the Sun-Earth L2. The telescope mass and volume are too large to be put in space with a single launch. Furthermore we desire that the success of the mission not be dependent upon a single launch. Consequently, the telescope will have to be assembled in situ where humans are not likely to venture. Mirror segments would be delivered over a period of several years and assembled with robotic means. This work was supported was by the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts

Published in:

Aerospace Conference Proceedings, 2000 IEEE  (Volume:2 )

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