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Physics of the Cosmos Program

Astrophysics Implementation Plan: Dec 2018 Update

NASA HQ has updated the Astrophysics Implementation Plan (AIP). This 2018 update details the progress made by Astrophysics Division (APD) in implementing the 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey recommendations since the previous update in 2016. APD nominally updates the AIP every two years: the 2018 update supplements the Astrophysics Implementation Plan, the Astrophysics Implementation Plan: 2014 Update, and the Astrophysics Implementation Plan: 2016 Update.

Below is a summary extracted by the PCOS Program Office for your benefit. Check out the 2018 AIP update itself for complete details. We encourage you to read Section 2: Summary of Changes, which is two pages at the start of the AIP.

NASA continues to make substantial progress implementing the 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey:

  • James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): The payload was successfully integrated and tested (I&T); spacecraft I&T continues. NASA established a new launch date of March 2021.
  • Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST): The project continues to make planned progress; continuation through FY 2019 depends on the outcome of the FY 2019 appropriations process.
  • Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA): Responding to the Midterm Assessment, NASA increased its roles in this ESA-led mission.
  • Athena: NASA continues its involvement in this ESA-led X-ray mission, supporting studies and technology development for both Athena instruments.
  • Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE): Small Explorer selected for flight development.
  • Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO): Mission of Opportunity selected for flight development.
  • Medium Explorer (MIDEX) and Mission of Opportunity proposals: Three proposals for each were selected for mission concept studies. Downselection for flight is expected in early 2019.
  • Expected announcements: Small Explorers (SMEX) and Missions of Opportunity announcements will be issued in Spring 2019.
  • Research & Analysis (R&A): APD continues to maintain a balanced program in R&A.
  • Cubesats: New element added in Research and Analysis.
  • Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA): Completing its prime mission in Fall 2019, NASA has initiated independent reviews of SOFIA's science progress and prospects and of its operations and maintenance efficiency.
  • Euclid: NASA redesigned and will deliver new Sensor Chip Electronics in 2019. The ESA-led Euclid mission is currently scheduled for launch in June 2022.
  • X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM): Both JAXA and NASA formally approved as a project this Hitomi science recovery mission.
  • Successful launches: Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER, Jun 2017, ISS), Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass experiment (CREAM, Aug 2017), and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS, Apr 2018).
  • 2020 Astrophysics Decadal Survey: NASA continues supporting the community's preparations for the Decadal through Large and Probe mission concept studies as well as other community-led activities.
  • 2019 Astrophysics Senior Review of operating missions: The following missions will participate in the Review:
    • Chandra X-ray Observatory,
    • Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope,
    • Gehrels Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer,
    • Hubble Space Telescope,
    • Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER),
    • Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR),
    • Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and
    • X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM)-Newton.
    Three review panels will evaluate Hubble, Chandra, and the other missions on their scientific merit, their relevance and responsiveness to NASA's strategic goals in astrophysics and science, and their expected technical capability and cost reasonableness over the next three years. The Senior Review Subcommittee will merge the panels' findings and rank the missions. After public deliberation of the Senior Review Report, the Astrophysics Advisory Committee (APAC) will deliver a final report to NASA. The entire process is planned to be complete by May 2019.

Table 1 also lists 2010 Decadal survey recommendations and NASA actions.

Community input:

NASA receives community advice from Federal Advisory Committees and from the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Academies. In January 2017, NASA chartered the Astrophysics Advisory Committee (APAC) to advise the Director of NASA's Astrophysics Division on NASA's astrophysics programs, policies, plans, and priorities. NASA continues to receive advice regarding its astrophysics programs from the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) and the National Academies' Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA).

In addition, the Physics of the Cosmos Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG) and its partner PAGs, COPAG and ExoPAG, serve as community-based, interdisciplinary fora for soliciting and coordinating community analysis and input regarding Physics of the Cosmos, Cosmic Origins, and Exoplanet Exploration objectives. The PhysPAG reports to the NASA Astrophysics Division Director through the APAC.

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