Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope

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Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope - Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets
WFIRST-AFTA (Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope - Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets).jpg
General information
Organization NASA
Launch date 2024, assuming 2017 start
Mission length 6 years for baseline science
Mass 6,481 kg (14,288 lb) (current best estimate, without margin)
Type of orbit Geosynchronous orbit
Orbit height 42,164 km (26,199 mi)
Orbit period 1 sidereal day
Location 28.5 degree inclined
(Geosynchronous orbit)
Telescope style Three-mirror anastigmat
Wavelength visible and near-infrared
Diameter 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)

The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a proposed infrared space observatory which was selected by National Research Council committee as the top priority for the next decade of astronomy.

The design of WFIRST is based on one of the proposed designs for the Joint Dark Energy Mission between NASA and DOE. WFIRST adds some extra capabilities to the original JDEM proposal, including a search for extra-solar planets using gravitational microlensing.[1] WFIRST will also attempt to detect the nature of dark energy.[2]

The original design of WFIRST (Design Reference Mission 1), studied in 2011-2012, featured a 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) diameter unobstructed three-mirror anastigmat telescope. [3] It contained a single instrument, a visible to near-infrared imager/slitless prism spectrometer. In 2012, another possibility emerged: NASA could use a second-hand National Reconnaissance Office telescope to accomplish a mission like the one planned for WFIRST. NRO offered to donate two telescopes, the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope with a wider field of view.[4] This mission concept, called WFIRST-AFTA (Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets), is being matured by a scientific and technical team;[5] this mission is now the only present NASA plan for the use of the NRO telescopes.[6] The mission will remain in this 'pre-formulation' phase until at least early 2016.[7] The WFIRST-AFTA baseline design now includes a coronagraph to enable the direct imaging of exoplanets.

As of March 4, 2014, the President's FY15 budget request includes a line item for WFIRST/AFTA development, including a budget ramp-up consistent with the mid-2020s launch date.[8]

Science objectives[edit]

WFIRST-AFTA will have a three instruments: (1) a 288-megapixel HgCdTe focal-plane array with a pixel size of 110 milliarcseconds; (2) an integral field spectrograph; (3) a coronagraph.


  1. ^ National Research Council (2010). New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council. ISBN 0-309-15802-8. Retrieved 27 January 2011. 
  2. ^ WFIRST Wide-Field Infrared Telescope Home Page, http://wfirst.gsfc.nasa.gov/about/
  3. ^ WFIRST Science Definition Team Final Report, 2012-08-15, retrieved 2013-09-10 
  4. ^ "Ex-Spy Telescope May Become a Space Investigator - NYTimes.com". 2012-06-04. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  5. ^ WFIRST-AFTA SDT Final Report, revision 1, 2013-05-23, retrieved 2013-09-10 
  6. ^ Dan Leone (2013-06-04). "Only NASA Astrophysics Remains in Running for Donated NRO Telescope — For Now; SpaceNews article". Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  7. ^ Paul Hertz (2013-06-04), NASA Astrophysics presentation to American Astronomical Society, retrieved 2013-09-10 
  8. ^ Beth Robinson (2014-03-04). "Presentation by NASA CFO Beth Robinson". Retrieved 2014-03-04. 

External links[edit]