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Published September 16, 2015 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

Exo-C: a probe-scale space observatory for direct imaging and spectroscopy of extrasolar planetary systems


"Exo-C" is NASAs first community study of a modest aperture space telescope mission that is optimized for high contrast observations of exoplanetary systems. The mission will be capable of taking optical spectra of nearby exoplanets in reflected light, discovering previously undetected planets, and imaging structure in a large sample of circumstellar disks. It will obtain unique science results on planets down to super-Earth sizes and serve as a technology pathfinder toward an eventual flagship-class mission to find and characterize habitable Earth-like exoplanets. We present the mission/payload design and highlight steps to reduce mission cost/risk relative to previous mission concepts. Key elements are an unobscured telescope aperture, an internal coronagraph with deformable mirrors for precise wavefront control, and an orbit and observatory design chosen for high thermal stability. Exo-C has a similar telescope aperture, orbit, lifetime, and spacecraft bus requirements to the highly successful Kepler mission (which is our cost reference). Much of the needed technology development is being pursued under the WFIRST coronagraph study and would support a mission start in 2017, should NASA decide to proceed. This paper summarizes the study final report completed in March 2015.

Additional Information

© 2015 Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). The contents of this paper have been distilled from the March 2015 Exo-C Final Study Report, available in full at http://exep.jpl.nasa.gov/stdt. This material has been approved for external release, JPL CL#15-0026, We thank the staff of the Exoplanet Exploration Program Office at JPL for their assistance in many aspects of this study. This work has been supported by funding from the Astrophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters.

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