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Advancing Astronomy’s Concept Studies

Our staff coordinates the Space Telescope Science Institute’s involvement in community-led concept studies of future space observatories and astronomical instrumentation. Our teams help define scientific goals and observational requirements, and provide key input to guide those scientific goals through mission and instrument design. We link mission design decisions to scientific productivity via high-fidelity data simulations and analysis tools.

Our staff is currently involved in four major NASA strategic mission concept studies that could become flagship space telescopes in the 2030s and 2040s, including the Large UV/Optical/Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR) observatory, a concept for a 9- to 15-meter space telescope that will provide unprecedented spatial resolution, and the Origins Space Telescope (OST), a large (8- to-15-meter) far-infrared space telescope.

We also study advanced instrument concepts to enable these ambitious missions. Most notably, the Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory designs, tests, and evaluates high-contrast coronagraph concepts that will work with large segmented space telescopes to enable the direct detection and characterization of Earth-like planets around other stars.

Advanced Concept Missions


    Artistic rendering of LUVOIR

    The Large UV/Optical/Infrared Surveyor is a NASA strategic mission concept study for a 9- to 15-meter ultraviolet/optical/infrared space telescope. Project timeline: 2017 to 2019.

  • OST

    Artistic rendering of science concepts that could be explored by Origins Space Telescope.

    The Origins Space Telescope is a NASA strategic mission concept study for an 8- to 15-meter far-infrared space telescope. Project timeline: 2017 to 2019.

  • HDST

    Hubble’s High-Definition Panoramic View of the Andromeda Galaxy.

    The High-Definition Space Telescope was a science and technology study for a 12-meter ultraviolet/optical/infrared space telescope. Project timeline: 2014 to 2015.

Additional Concept Missions


    Planetary nebula Abell 30 shown in UV spectrum

    The Small Explorer UV Sky Survey Satellite was a proposed concept for an ultraviolet sky survey mission. Project timeline: 2015 to 2017.

  • SCDA

    Artistic rendering of Phase Apodization applied to segmented aperture geometry

    The Segmented Coronagraph Design and Analysis project includes theoretical and experimental designs for advanced high-performance coronagraphs. Project timeline: 2013 to present.


Contact the Community Missions Office