SPICA (spacecraft)

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Mission typeInfrared astronomy
OperatorESA / JAXA
Mission duration3 years (science mission)
5 years (design goal) [1][2]
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass3650 kg [3]
Payload mass600 kg
Dimensions5.9 x 4.5 m [3]
Power3 kW from a 14 m2 solar array[3]
Start of mission
Launch date2032 (canceled) [4]
Launch siteTanegashima, LA-Y
ContractorMitsubishi Heavy Industries
Orbital parameters
Reference systemSun–Earth L2
RegimeHalo orbit
Main telescope
Diameter2.5 m
Collecting area4.6 m2 [5]
WavelengthsFrom 12 μm (mid-infrared)
to 230 μm (far-infrared) [1][2]
SAFARI SpicA FAR-infrared Instrument
SMI SPICA Mid-Infrared Instrument
B-BOP Magnetic field explorer with BOlometers and Polarizers

The Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA), was a proposed infrared space telescope, follow-on to the successful Akari space observatory. It was a collaboration between European and Japanese scientists, which was selected in May 2018 by the European Space Agency (ESA) as a finalist for the next Medium class Mission 5 of the Cosmic Vision programme, to launch in 2032. The other 2 finalists are: THESEUS and EnVision.[6] SPICA will improve on the spectral line sensitivity of previous missions, the Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes, between 30 and 230 µm by a factor of 50—100.[7]

A final decision was expected in 2021,[4] but in October 2020, it was announced that SPICA is no longer being considered as a candidate for the M5 mission.[8][9]


In Japan, SPICA was first proposed in 2007, initially called HII-L2 after the launch vehicle and orbit, as a large Strategic L-class mission,[10][11][12] and in Europe it was proposed to ESA's Cosmic Vision programme (M1 and M2),[10] but an internal review at ESA at the end of 2009 suggested that the technology readiness for the mission was not adequate.[13][14][15]

In May 2018, it was selected as one of three finalists for the Cosmic Vision Medium Class Mission 5 (M5) for a proposed launch date of 2032.[4] Within ESA, SPICA was part of the Medium Class-5 (M5) mission competition, with a cost cap of 550M Euros.[citation needed]

It stopped being a candidate for M5 in October 2020 due to financial constraints.[8]


The concept was a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). If funded, the telescope would have been launched on JAXA's H3 launch vehicle.

The Ritchey–Chrétien telescope's 2.5-metre mirror (similar size to that of the Herschel Space Observatory) would be made of silicon carbide, possibly by ESA given their experience with the Herschel telescope. The main mission of the spacecraft would be the study of star and planetary formation. It would be able to detect stellar nurseries in galaxies, protoplanetary discs around young stars, and exoplanets, helped by its own coronograph for the latter two types of objects.


The observatory would feature a far-infrared spectrometer and is proposed to be deployed in a halo orbit around the L2 point. The design proposes to use V-groove radiators and mechanical cryocoolers rather than liquid helium to cool the mirror to below 8 K (−265.15 °C)[2] (versus the 80 K or so of a mirror cooled only by radiation like Herschel's) which provides substantially greater sensitivity in the 10–100 μm infrared band (IR band); the telescope intended to observe in longer wavelength infrared than the James Webb Space Telescope. Its sensitivity would be more than two orders of magnitude over both Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes.[2]

Large-aperture Cryogenic Telescope

SPICA would employ a 2.5 m diameter Ritchey–Chrétien telescope with a field of view of 30 arc minutes.[16]

Focal-Plane Instruments
  • SMI (SPICA Mid-infrared Instrument): 12–36 μm
    • SMI-LRS (Low-Resolution Spectroscopy): 17–36 μm. It aims at detecting PAH dust emission as a clue of distant galaxies and emission of minerals from planet formation regions around stars
    • SMI-MRS (Mid-Resolution Spectroscopy): 18–36 μm. Its high sensitivity for line emission with a relatively high wavelength resolution (R=2000) enables characterization of distant galaxies and planet formation regions detected by SMI-LRS
    • SMI-HRS (High-Resolution Spectroscopy): 12–18 μm. With its extremely high wavelength resolution (R=28000), SMI-HRS can study the dynamics of molecular gas in planet formation regions around stars
  • SAFARI (SPICA Far-infrared Instrument): 35–230 μm
  • B-BOP (B-BOP stands for "B-fields with BOlometers and Polarizers"):[7] Imaging polarimeter operating in three bands, 100 μm, 200 μm and 350 μm. B-Bop enables the polarimetric mapping of Galactic filamentary structures to study the role of magnetic fields in filaments and star formation.


As in the name, the main objective is to make advancement in the research of cosmology and astrophysics. Specific research fields include:

  • The birth and evolution of galaxies
  • The birth and evolution of stars and planetary systems
  • The evolution of matter

Discovery science[edit]

  • Constraints on the emission of ground state Н2 emission from the first (population III) generation of stars
  • The detection of biomarkers in the mid-infrared spectra of exo-planets and/or the primordial material in protoplanetary disks
  • The detection of Н2 haloes around galaxies in the local Universe
  • With sufficient technical development of coronagraphic techniques: the imaging of any planets in the habitable zone in the nearest few stars
  • The detection of the far infrared transitions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the interstellar medium. The very large molecules thought to comprise the PAHs, and which give rise to the characteristic features in the near-infrared, have vibrational transitions in the far-infrared which are widespread and extremely weak
  • The direct detection of dust formation in super novae in external galaxies and the determination of the origin of the large amounts of dust in high redshift galaxies

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Instruments oboard SPICA". JAXA. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d SPICA Mission. SPICA Home Site.
  3. ^ a b c d SPICA - a large cryogenic infrared space telescope Unveiling the obscured Universe. (PDF). P.R. Roelfsema, and al. arXive; 28 March 2018.doi:10.1017/pas.2018.xxx
  4. ^ a b c "ESA selects three new mission concepts for study". 7 May 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  5. ^ SPICA/SAFARI Fact Sheet. (PDF)
  6. ^ "SPICA: an infrared telescope to look back into the early universe". thespacereview.com. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b André, Ph.; Hughes, A.; Guillet, V.; Boulanger, F.; Bracco, A.; Ntormousi, E.; Arzoumanian, D.; Maury, A.J.; Bernard, J.-Ph.; Bontemps, S.; Ristorcelli, I.; Girart, J.M.; Motte, F.; Tassis, K.; Pantin, E.; Montmerle, T.; Johnstone, D.; Gabici, S.; Efstathiou, A.; Basu, S.; Béthermin, M.; Beuther, H.; Braine, J.; Francesco, J. Di; Falgarone, E.; Ferrière, K.; Fletcher, A.; Galametz, M.; Giard, M.; et al. (9 May 2019). "Probing the cold magnetized Universe with SPICA-POL (B-BOP)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. 36. arXiv:1905.03520. doi:10.1017/pasa.2019.20. S2CID 148571681.
  8. ^ a b "SPICA no longer candidate for ESA's M5 mission selection". ESA. 15 October 2020.
  9. ^ "SPICA no longer candidate for ESA's M5 mission selection". ISAS. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  10. ^ a b SPICA - Current status. JAXA.
  11. ^ "The Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics: Revealing the Origins of Planets and Galaxies".
  12. ^ Goicoechea, J. R.; Isaak, K.; Swinyard, B. (2009). "Exoplanet research with SAFARI: A far-IR imaging spectrometer for SPICA". arXiv:0901.3240 [astro-ph.EP].
  13. ^ SPICA technical review report. ESA. 8 December 2009.
  14. ^ "SPICA's Mission". SPICA Website. JAXA. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  15. ^ "A new start for the SPICA mission" (PDF). JAXA. February 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  16. ^ "Instruments onboard SPICA". www.ir.isas.jaxa.jp. Retrieved 2 May 2016.

External links[edit]