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

Karl R. Stapelfeldt, Frank G. Dekens, Michael P. Brenner, Keith R. Warfield, Ruslan Belikov, Paul B. Brugarolas, Geoffrey Bryden, Kerri L. Cahoy, Supriya Chakrabarti, Serge Dubovitsky, Robert T. Effinger, Brian Hirsch, Andrew Kissil, John E. Krist, Jared J. Lang, Mark S. Marley, Michael W. McElwain, Victoria S. Meadows, Joel Nissen, Jeffrey M. OseasChris Pong, Eugene Serabyn, Eric Sunada, John T. Trauger, Stephen C. Unwin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Scopus citations


"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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets VII
EditorsStuart Shaklan
ISBN (Electronic)9781628417715
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets VII - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 10 2015Aug 13 2015

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets VII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


  • Exoplanets
  • high contrast imaging
  • optical astronomy
  • space mission concepts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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