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Proceedings Paper

Terrestrial Planet Finder space vehicle architecture trades
Author(s): Michael J. Wehner; Stewart L. Moses; Keith Kroening; Elizabeth D. Johnson
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Paper Abstract

The goal of NASA's Terrestrial PLanet Finder program is to detect Earth-size planets orbiting other stars and evaluate their ability to sustain life. This will be accomplished through spaced-based infrared interferometry using baselines much longer than previously flown. This paper presents the technical trades being evaluated by TRW to implement this investigation. Two primary concepts are considered: a single monolithic deployed interferometer with a baseline of up to ∼100 meters and a free-flying constellation of interferometer components featuring precision station-keeping over baselines of up to several kilometers. Exo-planet detection is best performed at ∼ 10 micron wavelength requiring the instrument to operate at cryogenic temperatures to minimize the effects of telescope thermal emissions. Further improvements in sensitivity can be facilitated by flying on a deep space trajectory away from the Sun to reduce zodiacal background emissions. Numerous technical innovations are necessary to enable such a system; however, most of these technologies are being developed by existing programs and there should be no roadblocks to fielding such a terrestrial planet finder in the 2010-2020 time frame.

Paper Details

Date Published: 24 July 1998
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 3350, Astronomical Interferometry, (24 July 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.317133
Show Author Affiliations
Michael J. Wehner, TRW Space & Electronics Group (United States)
Stewart L. Moses, TRW Space & Electronics Group (United States)
Keith Kroening, TRW Space & Electronics Group (United States)
Elizabeth D. Johnson, TRW Space & Electronics Group (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3350:
Astronomical Interferometry
Robert D. Reasenberg, Editor(s)

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