Cosmic Vision (also known as Cosmic Vision 2015–2025) is a European Space Agency (ESA) long-term space science missions programme spanning between years 2015 and 2025, a successor to the Horizon 2000 long-term scientific programme.
The initial call of ideas and concepts was launched in 2004 with a subsequent workshop held in Paris to define more fully the themes of the Vision under the broader headings of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Solar System Exploration and Fundamental Physics.
By early 2006 the formulation for a 10-year plan based around 4 key questions emerged:
- What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life?
- How does the Solar System work?
- What are the fundamental physical laws of the Universe?
- How did the Universe originate and what is it made of?
In March 2007 a call for mission ideas was formally released, which yielded in 19 astrophysics, 12 fundamental physics and 19 Solar System mission proposals.
In March 2012 ESA announced it had begun working on a series of small class (S-class) science missions. The first winning S-class concept is set to receive 50 million euros (£42m) and will be readied for launch in 2017.[needs update]
Small class missions (S-class) are intended to have a cost to ESA not exceeding 50 million euros. A first call for mission proposals was issued in March 2012. Approximately 70 letters of Intent were received. In October 2012 the first S-class mission was selected:
- S1, CHEOPS, a mission to search for exoplanets by photometry; launch planned for the end of 2018.
- S2, SMILE, a joint mission between ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to study the interaction between Earth's magnetosphere and the solar wind. Selected on 4 June 2015 from 13 competing proposals, its launch is planned for 2021.
Medium class (M-class) projects are relatively stand-alone projects and have a price cap of approximately 500 million euros. The first two M-class missions, M1 and M2, were selected in October 2011:
- M1, Solar Orbiter, an adopted mission for close-up observations of the Sun; launch planned for February 2019.
- M2, Euclid, a selected mission to study dark energy and dark matter; launch planned for 2020.
- M3, PLATO, a mission to search for exoplanets and measure stellar oscillations. Selected on 19 February 2014, its launch is planned for 2026. Other competing concepts that were studied included the four candidate missions EChO, LOFT, MarcoPolo-R and STE-QUEST.
- M4, ARIEL (Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) which will observe transits of nearby exoplanets to determine their chemical composition and physical conditions. The mission was selected by ESA on 20 March 2018 as fourth medium-class science mission, to be launched in mid-2028. After a preliminary culling of proposals in March 2015, a short list of three mission proposals selected for further study was announced on 4 June 2015. The final selection was to take place in November 2017, but has been pushed back by a semester. The shortlist consisted also of two other proposals: THOR (Turbulence Heating ObserveR) which would address a fundamental problem in space plasma physics concerned with the heating of plasma and the subsequent dissipation of energy, and XIPE (X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer) which would study X-ray emissions from high-energy sources such as supernovas, galaxy jets, black holes and neutron stars, to discover more about the behaviour of matter under extreme conditions.
- A call for M5 mission proposals was announced in April 2016. In May 2018, a shortlist of three candidate missions was announced for a proposed launch date in 2032: the three are SPICA (SPace Infrared telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics), a far-infrared observatory; THESEUS (Transient High-Energy Sky and Early Universe Surveyor), to detect distant gamma-ray bursts; and EnVision, a Venus orbiter for radar mapping.
Originally it was intended that Large class (L-class) projects were to be carried out in collaboration with other partners and should have an ESA cost not exceeding 900 million euros. However, in April 2011 it became clear that budget pressures in the US meant that an expected collaboration with NASA on the L1 mission would not be practical; so the down-selection was delayed and the missions re-scoped on the assumption of ESA lead with some limited international participation.
Three L-class missions have been selected:
- L1, JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer), a mission to the Jupiter system (with heritage from Laplace); launch planned for 2022.
- L2, ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics), an X-ray observatory with a launch planned for 2028.
- L3, LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), a space mission concept designed to detect and accurately measure gravitational waves at lower frequencies than Earth-bound detectors. Its launch is planned for 2034.
Missions of opportunity
Occasionally ESA makes contributions to space missions led by another space agency. A contribution to SPICA (Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics), a Japanese JAXA mission was evaluated as such a mission of opportunity within the Cosmic Vision. It is no longer considered within that framework, but is one of the mission proposals being considered for M5.
At the ESA Science Programme Committee (SPC) Workshop on 16 May 2018, the creation of a series of special opportunity F-class missions was proposed. These F-missions would be jointly launched alongside each M-class mission starting from M4, and would focus on "innovative implementation" in order to broaden the range of scientific topics covered by the mission. The inclusion of F-class missions into the Cosmic Vision program would require a significant increase of the science budget, to be discussed in future meetings.
- List of projects of the European Space Agency
- New Frontiers program (NASA mission class)
- Discovery program (NASA mission class)
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- Hasinger, Günther (23 May 2018). "The ESA Science Programme - ESSC Plenary Meeting" (PDF). ESA. Retrieved 8 July 2018.