Physics of the Cosmos Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG)
Call for White Papers: Probe-Class Astrophysics Mission Concepts
Probe Study White Papers Submitted
To: The Astronomical Community
From: The Physics of the Cosmos Program Analysis Group Executive Committee
Due Date: March 1, 2016
Submission: Submit PDF white papers to PhysPAG_Contact@bigbang.gsfc.nasa.gov
The Physics of the Cosmos Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG) invites you to provide feedback via submission of one-to-two page white papers on compelling Probe-class missions that NASA should consider for the 2020s. It does NOT represent a call for proposals, or pre-proposals. We are using this information to assess community interest in probes, and to understand the range of concepts.
Context: In 2015, Paul Hertz (Director, NASA Astrophysics Division) issued a memo to the astronomical community to stimulate planning for the 2020 Decadal Survey. Now that the question of large mission studies is advancing to the STDT mission-study phase, it is an appropriate time for the PhysPAG to consider the question of Probe-class missions in a more formal fashion.
Definition of Probe: We consider a Probe-class mission to fit within the cost envelope between a Mid-sized Explorer (MIDEX) mission and a large mission. While previous considerations have used $1B as a rigid cap, we would like to see where the balance between cost and return falls. A Probe-class mission would have a primary mission goal of addressing a focused science investigation with a PI, and is not intended to be a general-user type observatory. This activity is intended to explore the PCOS community's interest in a line of competed PI missions, in this approximate cost range.
Details of submissions: The papers submitted will be made public, so do not include proprietary information. Please include in your submission an initial estimate at the cost of your mission and the basis upon which this cost estimate has been made. The cost cap of probe missions is a matter of discussion, but will not exceed $1B (life cycle cost, LCC). The PhysPAG particularly wants to understand the potential for missions in the $0.5M–1B range. Please also include an idea of the mission lifetime needed for meeting its science goal(s). This initial call for white papers is only a start - the white papers will form a core set of community input for discussion regarding whether the establishment of a formal Probe-class mission line is warranted.
All white papers must include a title, author names, and email address of the lead author. Length is limited to 2 pages, including figures. Font size must be 10 point or greater. PDF submissions are preferred, although Microsoft Word submissions and plain text submissions are also acceptable. We recommend that you consider the following types of information below in your white paper responses.
Deadline for submission of the white papers: March 1, 2016.
Suggested format for the papers:
- SCIENCE DRIVERS
This is the most important section of your white paper. Describe an important Physics of the Cosmos science question(s) that you think should be addressed by a Probe-class mission. Please be as specific as possible by describing science questions or specific measurements to be addressed rather than general capabilities or science areas. For example, “Are supermassive black holes and strong magnetic fields always required for the formation of relativistic jets?” would be more useful than “observing extragalactic jets at unprecedented angular and spectral resolution” or “investigating the origin of the radio-loud and radio-quiet AGN dichotomy”. Note that the most compelling science cases for future Probes will likely be those that cannot be addressed in the 2020’s by existing or currently planned facilities, such as Chandra, Fermi, and Athena.
- TECHNICAL CAPABILITIES
To the extent you can specify it, describe the performance capabilities that this mission would require to address key science questions. Include the following information (as appropriate):
- Spectral coverage
- Spectral resolving power (both for imaging and spectroscopy)
- Angular resolution
- Field of view
- Primary operational mode, e.g. survey, point-and-stare, etc.
- Sensitivity. (If you can’t answer in a quantitative way, try to describe in terms of the class of object that you would want to be able to detect out to a particular distance, at a desired signal-to-noise ratio, etc.)
- Basic requirements on the spacecraft. That includes approximate mass, orbit, lifetime, data rate, pointing requirements, etc.
Identify technology development required to implement the probe concept you describe, and, to the extent possible, estimate the time and effort needed to complete that development. (e.g., none, very little/ a year or two, significant/5 years). Explain the basis of your estimate, for example by comparing the required technical capability to that available now.
REASONS WHY A PROBE-CLASS MISSION IS NEEDED
Could the science question(s) described above be addressed (in total or in part) by a smaller mission (Explorer-class, suborbital payloads, etc), or a larger mission, or are the science objectives clearly in the realm of a Probe-class mission? Please make this clear.
To the extent possible, explain why you think the mission you describe could be executed for a cost between $0.5B and $1.0B.
Program News and Announcements
31 May 2019
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA SMD Associate Administrator, invites the science community to a live-streamed national colloquium on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 (4:00–6:00 pm EDT) on "Writing Successful Mission Proposals: Observations from NASA." To attend in person at the University of Colorado campus, please RSVP here
. The live stream will be available here
. For further details, please see the colloquium invitation. » Details
17 May 2019
Following up on a Nov 2018 mission PI diversity workshop, the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is planning a number of exciting opportunities open to community participation, including a new website for potential PIs, pre-review mission panels to ensure diversity and reduce conflicts of interest, research proposal writing workshops at conferences and for PIs developing their first proposal, career development positions, and a presentation by SMD Associate Administrator Thomas H. Zurbuchen on proposal statistical analysis. Please see the Associate Administrator's full update here
16 May 2019
June 1 2019 is the deadline for filling and submitting the technology gap submission form. We encourage members of the community to identify such gaps between today's state-of-the-art and what will be needed for missions identified by the 2010 Decadal Survey, the 2018 Astrophysics Implementation Plan, and/or the 30-year Astrophysics Road Map. Please see the Astrophysics Division Technologists letter
for more details, including how to submit a gap.
25 March 2019
NASA HQ Astrophysics Division has created a task force to assess NASA's role in strategic optimization of Gravitational Wave Electromagnetic Counterpart (GW-EM) astrophysics. See the Terms of Reference
for more details.
1 February 2019
Dr Terri Brandt confirmed as PCOS Chief Scientist.