AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 8. Space Instruments
Display, Monday, May 31, 1999, 9:20am-6:30pm, Southwest Exhibit Hall

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[8.14] OPUS3: A Mission Concept for Low Cost UV Astrophysics.

W.M. Harris (Space Astronomy Lab., U. Wisconsin), R. Paulos (Space Science and Engineering Center, U. Wisconsin), D. Carson (GSFC), D. McGuffey (Swales Aerospace), OPUS3 Science Team

Current NASA strategic plans for the next decade do not include new UV astrophysics missions, and HST is expected to remain the primary data gathering tool for this field. HST's impressive capabilities for UV astronomy support this plan, however, exclusive reliance on HST also leaves the community perilously dependent on an aging, high cost platform where only a small fraction of the orbits will be committed to the UV. Since space based observations are essential in this bandpass, it is prudent to develop additional UV-capable facilities both to complement HST's capabilities and as a hedge against its eventual loss as a science tool.

We present a concept for a high performance space observatory designed for focused space science research from a low cost Spartan-400 spacecraft in low Earth orbit. The observatory employs a 1.3m f/34 Ritchey-Chretien telescope feeding a 20-channel all-reflective imager and a 6-channel Rowland Circle spectrograph. The Spartan-400 provides substantial capacity in power and mass, permitting instrument designs to focus on performance rather than resources. Furthermore, the spacecraft is deployed and retrieved from the space shuttle, which simultaneously reduces launch costs and allows retrieval of the observatory.

The observatory is in development for a mission to observe integrated phenomena in the solar system over the bandpass from 1100-3100Å. This mission, "The Observing Platform for Ultraviolet Solar System Science - OPUS3", would begin in 2004 and operate for 3-5 years. For subsequent missions the facility will be available to perform customized space science research, with the capability of supporting new technology, science instruments, or bandpasses from the EUV to NIR. The OPUS3 platform may be used for 5 or more times, thus providing inexpensive, reliable, near continuous access to the UV universe for the first 1-2 decades of the next century.

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