Keck Institute for Space Studies

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In 2011, the Keck Institute for Space Studies moved from the Millikan Building (above) to the 3rd floor of the Keith Spalding Building on the Caltech Campus.

The Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) is a joint institute of the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory established in January 2008 with a $24 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation. It is a privately funded think tank focused on space mission concepts and technology.

According to the 2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Keck is number 30 in the "Top Thirty Science and Technology Think Tanks".[1]

The Founding Director of the Institute is Professor Tom Prince.



Seven programs have completed their initial studies, and are currently in the technical development phase:

  • Robotic Exploration and Sampling of Mars
  • Large Space Structures
  • Coherent Arrays for Astronomy and Remote Sensing
  • Monitoring Earth Surface Changes from Space
  • Single Photon Counting Detectors
  • Future Missions to Titan: Scientific and Engineering Challenges
  • Mission Concepts for Accessing and Sampling High-Risk Terrains on Planetary Surfaces

In 2012, six new studies and one student-led program were established.

  • New Methods to Measure Photosynthesis from Space
  • In Situ Science and Instrumentation for Primitive Bodies
  • Quantum Communication, Sensing and Measurement in Space
  • Engineering Resilient Space Systems
  • Small Satellites: A Revolution in Space Science
  • CMB Polarization Cosmology in the Coming Decade
Student-Led Program:
  • Tools and Algorithms for Sampling in Extreme Terrain

Completed studies include:

  • Climate Feedbacks and Future Remote Sensing Observations
  • Shedding Light on the Nature of Dark Matter
  • Innovative Concepts in IR/Submm Astronomy from Space
  • Innovative Approaches to Exoplanet Spectra
  • Quantifying the Sources and Sinks of Atmospheric CO2
  • Innovative Approaches to Planetary Seismology
  • The First Billion Years
  • Innovative Satellite Observations to Characterize the Cloudy Boundary Layer
  • Asteroid Return Mission Study
  • Digging Deeper: Algorithms for Computationally Limited Searches in Astronomy
  • Next Generation Ultraviolet Instrument Technologies Enabling Missions in Astrophysics, Cosmology, and Planetary Sciences
  • Monitoring of Geoengineering Effects and their Natural and Anthropogenic Analogues
  • xTerramechanics - Integrated Simulation of Planetary Surface Missions
Student-Led Programs:
  • High Altitude Ballooning for Space and Atmospheric Observation
  • Caltech Space Challenge


  1. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (January 20, 2012). "The Global Go To Think Tank Report, 2011". Retrieved June 2010. 

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Coordinates: 34°08′12″N 118°07′34″W / 34.1368°N 118.1260°W / 34.1368; -118.1260