NASA has selected four small astrophysics missions for further study, although the agency cautions that not all may ultimately be flown.
Several NASA astrophysics missions in various stages of development are likely facing delays because of the coronavirus pandemic, an agency official said.
The launch of a NASA astronomy smallsat mission next year will be postponed by several months after the pandemic delayed assembly of key elements of the spacecraft.
NASA has selected four finalists for the agency’s next small astrophysics mission, including both spacecraft and International Space Station experiments to study a wide range of astronomical phenomena.
As one astronomy cubesat reaches the end of its mission, scientists and NASA officials argue that such spacecraft have demonstrated they can perform useful science often not feasible with larger missions.
There’s little doubt, though, that JWST will eventually launch, even if the March 2021 date slips. The same isn’t the case for the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), NASA’s next flagship astrophysics mission.
NASA has directed teams studying proposed flagship-class missions for the next astrophysics decadal survey to fit their concepts within cost caps that could force major changes to their designs.
Two months after suggesting the next major review of priorities in astrophysics research and missions to achieve those goals be delayed, the head of NASA’s science directorate says that study should stay on schedule.
With uncertainty about the future of two large space telescopes, NASA is continuing to suggest that the next decadal survey for astrophysics be postponed, a move opposed by many astronomers.