Exo-C: Imaging Nearby Worlds
Exo-C is a NASA-sponsored community mission study of a space telescope designed for high contrast imaging of extrasolar planetary systems with an internal coronagraph. Starting in summer 2013 and completing in early 2015, the Exo-C study shows what could be done with an optimized space telescope within a "probe scale" cost cap of $1B. The Exo-C study is being carried out by a Science and Technology Definition selected by NASA HQ and by an engineering design team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Exo-C would be the first space mission to employ precision wavefront control to achieve detections of exoplanets and disks down to contrasts as faint as a few times 10-10. This performance would surpass by orders of magnitude that of all ground or space telescopes that are operating or building in the mid-2020s. It will enable an important and unique science return in the study of extrasolar giant planets from Jupiter to sub-Neptune sizes, in a small sample super-Earths, and a large sample of circumstellar debris disks. Exo-C will serve as a technology pathfinder toward the goal of a large follow-on mission to directly image Earth-like planets in the habitable zones around nearby stars.
Exo-C would be a mission of comparable cost and scope to Kepler; indeed, it would take the logical next step of imaging the exoplanetary systems Kepler has shown to be plentiful. Exo-C is the prototype of an affordable exoplanet direct imaging mission. It will be considered by NASA HQ as an option for new start in FY 2017, in the event that the AFTA/WFIRST mission is not able to go forward.
Exo-C Fast Facts:
- 1.4m unobscured telescope
- Earth-trailing orbit
- 3 year prime science mission
- Kepler-like spacecraft bus
- Baseline Hybrid Lyot coronagraph
- Imaging camera and Integral Field Spectrometer
Exo-C Final Report - March 2015
Exo-C Interim Report - April 2014