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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Search for extraterrestrial planets: the DARWIN mission

Paper Abstract

The ESA Darwin mission is primarily devoted to the detection of earth-like exoplanets and the spectroscopic characterization of their atmospheres for key tracers of life. Darwin is implemented as a free-flying stellar interferometer operating in the 6.5-20 micron wavelength range, and passively cooled to 40 K. The stellar flux is suppressed by destructive interference (nulling) over the full optical bandwidth. The planetary signal is extracted from the zodiacal background signature by modulating the optical response of the interferometer. The Darwin mission concept has evolved considerably in the past years. The original concept, based on six 1.5 m telescopes, has been replaced by more efficient designs using three to four three-meter class apertures. A novel 3D architecture is being evaluated, together with the conventional planar one, bearing the potential for significant volume and mass savings and enhanced straylight rejection. A number of technology development activities have been successfully completed, including optical metrology, optical delay lines, and single-mode infrared optical fibers. A second iteration of the Darwin System Assessment Study has been kicked off end 2005, aiming to consolidate the overall mission architecture and the preliminary design of the Darwin mission concept. This paper illustrates the current status of the Darwin mission, with special emphasis on the optical configuration and the technology development programme in the area of optics.

Paper Details

Date Published: 21 November 2017
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 10567, International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2006, 105670H (21 November 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2308153
Show Author Affiliations
Luigi d'Arcio, ESA-ESTEC (Netherlands)
Anders Karlsson, ESA-ESTEC (Netherlands)
Marcos Bavdaz, ESA-ESTEC (Netherlands)
Thomas Jagemann, ESA-ESTEC (Netherlands)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10567:
International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2006
Errico Armandillo; Josiane Costeraste; Nikos Karafolas, Editor(s)

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