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A Tethered Formation Flying Concept for the SPECS MissionThe Sub-millimeter Probe of the Evolution of Cosmic Structure (SPECS) is a bold new mission concept designed to address fundamental questions about the Universe, including how the first stars formed from primordial material, and the first galaxies from pre-galactic structures, how the galaxies evolve over time, and what the cosmic history of energy release, heavy element synthesis, and dust formation is. Half of the luminosity and 98% of the post Big-Bang photons exit in the sub-millimeter range. The spectrum of our own Milky Way Galaxy shows this, and many galaxies have even more pronounced long-wavelength emissions. There can be no doubt that revolutionary science will be enabled when we have tools to study the sub-millimeter sky with Hubble- Space-Telescope-class resolution and sensitivity. Ideally, a very large telescope with an effective aperture approaching one kilometer in diameter would be needed to obtain such high quality angular resolution at these long wavelengths. However, a single aperture one kilometer in diameter would not only be very difficult to build and maintain at the cryogenic temperatures required for good seeing, but could actually turn out to be serious overkill. Because cosmic sub-millimeter photons are plentiful and the new detectors will be sensitive, the observations needed to address the questions posed above can be made with an interferometer using well established aperture synthesis techniques. Possibly as few as three 3-4 meter diameter mirrors flying in precision formation could be used to collect the light. To mitigate the need for a great deal of propellant, tethers may be needed as well. A spin-stabilized, tethered formation is a possible configuration requiring a more advanced form of formation flying controller, where dynamics are coupled due to the existence of the tethers between nodes in the formation network. The paper presents one such concept, a proposed configuration for a mission concept which combines the best features of structure, tethers and formation flying to meet the ambitious requirements necessary to make a future SPECS mission a success.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Quinn, David A. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Folta, David C. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2000
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing and Performance
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Guidance and Control Conference(Breckenridge, CO)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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