NASA's next high-tech space telescope

NASA just greenlit a space telescope made of individual units that meet up in space and put themselves together.
By Tyler MacDonald | May 02, 2018
NASA just greenlit a self-assembling space telescope that will be composed of numerous individual units. Each unit will autonomously make its way to predetermined points in outer space and put itself together, according to

Sound a bit "far out?" Apparently, that's what NASA is going for with the first phase of its2018 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

"That's what the NIAC program is," said Dmitry Savransky, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering involved in the project. "You pitch these somewhat crazy-sounding ideas, but then try to back them up with a few initial calculations, and then it's a nine-month project where you're trying to answer feasibility questions."

Mason Peck, former chief technology officer at NASA, believes that Savransky is on the right track with his unique telescope proposal.

"As autonomous spacecraft become more common," Peck said, "and as we continue to improve how we build very small spacecraft, it makes a lot of sense to ask Savransky's question: Is it possible to build a space telescope that can see farther, and better, using only inexpensive small components that self-assemble in orbit?"

In fact, Peck's research has been supported by NIAC in the past, which means he has a solid grasp of what could work in NASA's unique program.

"If Professor Savransky proves the feasibility of creating a largespace telescopefrom tiny pieces, he'll change how we explorespace," he said. "We'll be able to afford to see farther, and better than ever maybe even to the surface of an extrasolar planet."


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