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Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Missions Section (SCI-FMA)

Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Missions Section (SCI-FMA)

The Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Missions Section (SCI-FMA), as part of the Mission Studies Division in the Future Missions Department of ESA's Science Directorate, is responsible for the system studies (phase 0/A/B1) of science missions in the fields of Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics which are candidates for the Science Programme. SCI-FMA also supports planning, monitoring, and development of technology developments in these science areas.

SCI-FMA tasks include in particular:

  • Management of Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics mission studies in phase 0/A/B1
  • Definition of mission and system requirements for internal ESA studies and for industrial studies
  • Definition of the corresponding mission Technology Development Plans
  • Development of specific related technologies required for future missions, in close cooperation with the Technology Preparation Section (SCI-FT)
  • Contributing to the evaluation of mission proposals originating from Calls for Missions in the fields of Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics
  • Conducting studies in preparation of future Calls for Missions
  • Conducting studies and supporting activities originating from the New Science Ideas call
  • Support to the assessment of ESA contributions to Missions of Opportunity from other Space Agencies
  • Interface to external entities/international partners when relevant

SUPPORTING THE COSMIC VISION PROGRAMME

The Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Missions Section is responsible for the assessment studies of numerous Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 mission candidates, providing the associated study managers (see Missions in Assessment Phase - link on left-hand menu). In addition, SCI-FMA provides Technical Officers for some technology development activities related to the SCI-FMA Section’s tasks.

The studies presently run by SCI-FMA are:

  • SPICA (M5 candidate): The internal Phase 0 study of the M5 mission candidate SPICA has been performed at ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) between June and November 2018. Following the successful Mission Definition Review (MDR), conducted in October 2018, SPICA entered and Industrial Phase A study (mid 2019 to mid 2021).
  • Theseus (M5 candidate): The internal Phase 0 study of the M5 mission candidate THESEUS has been performed at ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) between June and November 2018. Following the successful Mission Definition Review (MDR), conducted in October 2018, Theseus entered and Industrial Phase A study (mid 2019 to mod 2021).
  • Athena (L2): The Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics (selected L2-class mission). The Athena mission features an X-ray telescope with high resolution spectroscopy and wide-field spectrally-resolved imaging significantly exceeding the performance of existing X-ray observatories. Following the successful Mission Formulation Review (MFR), conducted in November 2019, Athena entered Phase B1 end 2019.
  • LISA (L3): a mission to detect and observe gravitational waves, covering the frequency range from 0.1 mHz to 1 Hz. The mission features a constellation of three identical satellites 2.5 million km apart, acting as a giant Michelson interferometer.
  • ARIEL: the Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-Survey (an M4 candidate). ARIEL includes a 1-m class telescope with a near-infrared spectrometer for measuring the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets. Following the successful Phase 0 and Phase A, ARIEL has been selected in 2018 as M4 Mission and entered an industrial Phase B1 study (mid 2018-mid 2020).
  • XIPE: the X-ray Imaging and Polarimetry Explorer (an M4 candidate), currently in Phase A. XIPE is an X-ray telescope carrying three multi-shell Wolter I type mirrors and three polarimeters based on Gas Pixel Detector technology.
  • QPPF (New Science Ideas study, 2018): an assessment study of the Quantum Physics PlatForm: a mission concept to test the quantum superposition principle with "massive" test particles. ESA's Science Directorate requested and managed the study as one of three topics selected for investigation following the "New Science Ideas" call for proposals.
  • GaiaNIR (New Science Ideas study, 2017): an astrometry mission combining visible and near-infrared capability.

Past Studies

  • IXO: International X-ray Observatory, formerly known as XEUS, a precursor of Athena.
  • LOFT: The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (M3-class candidate).
  • ECHO: The Exoplanet Characterization Observatory (M3-class candidate).
  • STE-QUEST: The Space-Time Explorer and QUantum Equivalence Principle Space Test (M3-class candidate).
  • Euclid: A dark universe observatory (M2).
  • PLATO: Planetary Transit and Oscillations of Stars (M3).
  • SPICA: Space IR Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics, a JAXA-led mission to which ESA would contribute within an M-class envelope.

Completed Studies in preparation to Cosmic Vision 2015-2025:

Last Update: 7 February 2020
29-Oct-2020 22:32 UT

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