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Session 71 - Space Astronomy in the Next Millennium.
Display session, Wednesday, January 17
North Banquet Hall, Convention Center

[71.17] Large Area X-ray Spectroscopy Mission

H. Tananbaum, L. VanSpeybroeck (SAO), M. Weisskopf (MSFC), C. Canizares, G. Ricker, T. Markert (MIT), S. Kahn (Columbia U.), E. Silver (SAO), B. Margon (U. Washington), O. Citterio (OAB, It.), S. Murray (SAO), J. Bilbro, M. Joy, R. Elsner, S. O'Dell (MSFC), F. Paerels (Columbia U.), S. Anderson (U. Washington), M. Ghigo (OAB, It.), J. Bookbinder (SAO)

We are studying a Large Area X-ray Spectroscopy Mission conceived and sized to address a range of fundamental astrophysical questions such as:

- the role of flares and microflares in heating stellar coronae - the impact of metallicity on the Eddington limit in accreting binaries - the enrichment of the interstellar and intracluster medium - the formation of galaxies from cooling cluster gas, and - the nature of the environment around quasars and other AGNs.

The essence of our concept is to build six identical modest satellites, each carrying a highly packed assembly of replicated mirror shells and X-ray spectrometers, launched into a solar, drift-away orbit (similar to that studied for the SIRTF program). We envision a large collecting area (\sim 3.3 sq. m around 1 keV), and a relatively high spectral resolution (E/\Delta E \sim 800 at 20Åwith the ability to study extended sources (up to 1' or 2') as well as point-like objects.

The proposed approach resonates extraordinarily well with NASA's strategy for the future. The program distributes risk over several launches using a number of small, lightweight, inexpensive satellites to achieve the required large area and scientific sensitivity. The development time is relatively short - 3 years from program start to first launch, with subsequent launches every 4-6 months. The relatively benign, solar orbit supports very simple operational scenarios and safe modes, and is conducive to long life (> 5 years). We anticipate widespread community involvement through use of the World-Wide-Web to disseminate information and exchange ideas, as part of an open process which will also include workshops to refine the scientific objectives and technical approach.

Program listing for Wednesday