European Space Agency Science Programme
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.
Horizon 2000 was the first campaign of the Science Programme, drafted by the European Space Agency in 1984, which focused on funding and developing new science missions, and also maintaining contemporary ones. The program, while providing funding for already-launched missions and those in late development such as the International Ultraviolet Explorer, Hipparcos and Ulysses, supported a series of brand new missions, divided into large-budget ventures known as "cornerstone" missions, and medium-sized missions known colloquially as "blue missions". The plan originally called for three cornerstone missions throughout the lifespan of the programme, however, the Solar-Terrestrial Science Programme, which consisted the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and Cluster missions, were adopted into the Horizon 2000 plan, becoming the first of four cornerstone missions. XMM-Newton was selected as the second cornerstone mission of the programme, while Rosetta and FIRST were selected in November 1993 as the third and fourth cornerstone missions, with the latter mission eventually being rechristened the Herschel Space Observatory.
Part of the Horizon 2000 programme was also a class of medium-sized missions known as "blue missions" – their name deriving from the colour of the box that represents them in the original Horizon 2000 proposal diagram from 1984. The Huygens lander, a component of the Cassini–Huygens mission, became the first designated medium-sized mission of the Horizon 2000 programme, after its selection in November 1988. INTEGRAL was chosen as the succeeding medium-sized mission in June 1993, followed three years later by the selection of COBRAS/SAMBA, later rechristened Planck, as the third medium-sized mission in July 1996. As of December 2016, four Horizon 2000 missions, including three cornerstone and one medium-sized mission, remain operational.
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. The current list of S-class missions include the following:
- S1, CHEOPS, a mission to search for exoplanets by photometry; launch planned for October to November 2019.
- 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 in June 2015 from thirteen competing proposals, its launch is planned for 2023.
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, a heliophysics mission to make close-up observations of the Sun; launch planned for February 2020.
- M2, Euclid, a visible to near-infrared space telescope to study dark energy and dark matter; launch planned for June 2022.
- 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 EChO, LOFT, MarcoPolo-R, STE-QUEST, and Caroline.
- M4, ARIEL (Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey), a space observatory 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 shortlist included the following two 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), a space telescope 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 2031.
- 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.
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