Four astrophysics mission proposals to study stars, galaxies and some of the most violent explosions in the universe have been selected for further study by NASA.
The selected missions are competing for funding as part of NASA’s Explorers Program and were announced by the agency on Thursday, Aug. 18. The Explorers Program focuses on small to medium-sized missions that can make a big science impact but also can be built and launched in a much shorter timeframe than large, expensive missions.
Two Astrophysics Medium Explorer missions and two Explorer Missions of Opportunity will now move into the mission concept study phase. NASA will evaluate the concepts before selecting one Mission of Opportunity and one Medium Explorer in 2024. The chosen pair of missions will then prepare for launches in 2027 and 2028.
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The two Medium Explorer teams will each receive $3 million for a nine-month mission concept study. These are:
The two Mission of Opportunity teams will each receive $750,000 to conduct their own nine-month concept study. These are:
The costs for medium explorer missions are capped at $300 million each, excluding the cost of launch. NASA Mission of Opportunity costs are capped at $80 million each.
“NASA’s Explorers Program has a proud tradition of supporting innovative approaches to exceptional science, and these selections hold that same promise,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement (opens in new tab).
“From studying the evolution of galaxies to explosive, high-energy events, these proposals are inspiring in their scope and creativity to explore the unknown in our universe.”
Explorers is NASA’s longest-running program and aims to provide regular opportunities for launch of space science missions. The first mission dates back to Explorer 1 in 1958, which discovered the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding Earth. More than 70 U.S. and cooperative international scientific space missions have been part of the program.
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