Keck Institute for Space Studies

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In 2013, the Keck Institute for Space Studies moved to its final home on the Caltech campus, the Keck Center. Photography by Benny Chan. Architects: Lehrer Architects, Los Angeles.

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.

The 2011-2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Reports (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), have listed KISS 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