ATLAST-Mission Studies

ATLAST: Mission Studies


NASA Strategic Mission Concept Study

We have produced a road map of the key technology developments required to enable ATLAST. Two of the concepts, the 8m monolithic mirror telescope and the 16.8m segmented mirror telescope, span the range of UVOIR observatories that are enabled by NASA's proposed space launch system (SLS) vehicle. The 8m ATLAST offers the inherent advantages of a monolithic aperture telescope in terms of high-contrast imaging and superb wavefront control. The 16m ATLAST represents a pathway to truly large apertures in space and uses the largest extrapolation of a JWST-like chord-fold primary mirror packaging. However, the ATLAST mission is not solely dependent on Ares V. Our third concept, a 9.2m segmented telescope, is compatible with an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) and also adopts JWST design heritage. The ATLAST technology development plan is supported with funding from NASA's Astrophysics Strategic Mission Concept Study program, the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Marshall Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Caltech) and related programs at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems and Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp.

The rapid progress on lightweight mirror technology that enabled the JWST is already being extended using new materials and processes, such as silicon carbide, corrugated and/or nanolaminate mirrors. Combined with advances in closed-loop wave front control of active optics and very large launch vehicles, the ATLAST concepts are affordable for the 2020 era if the technological development continues appropriately. The focus of our study was to identify the designs and technologies that enable the most cost-effective approaches. Consequently, our technology development plan is based on a comprehensive comparison of options for mirror fabrication, wavefront sensing and control, optical design, thermal analysis, pointing control, science instrument capabilities and a roadmap to bring these to high technological readiness levels for flight in the 2020 decade.