Origins Space Telescope: Baseline mission concept

David Leisawitz, Edward Amatucci, Lynn Allen, Jonathan Arenberg, Lee Armus, Cara Battersby, James Bauer, Bobby G. Beaman, Ray Bell, Porfirio Beltran, Dominic Benford, Edward Bergin, Jeffrey Bolognese, Charles M. Bradford, Damon Bradley, Denis Burgarella, Sean Carey, Ruth Carter, J. D. Chi, Asantha CoorayJames Corsetti, Thomas D'Asto, Elvire De Beck, Kevin Denis, Christopher Derkacz, Larry Dewell, Michael Dipirro, Cleland P. Earle, Matthew East, Samantha Edgington, Kimberly Ennico, Louis Fantano, Greg Feller, David Folta, Jonathan Fortney, Benjamin J. Gavares, Joseph Generie, Maryvonne Gerin, Zachary Granger, Thomas P. Greene, Alex Griffiths, George Harpole, Keith Harvey, Frank Helmich, Lawrence Hilliard, Joseph Howard, Michael Jacoby, Anisa Jamil, Tracee Jamison, Lisa Kaltenegger, Tiffany Kataria, John S. Knight, Perry Knollenberg, Charles Lawrence, Paul Lightsey, Sarah Lipscy, Eric Mamajek, Gregory Martins, John C. Mather, Margaret Meixner, Gary Melnick, Stefanie Milam, Ted Mooney, Samuel H. Moseley, Desika Narayanan, Susan Neff, Thanh Nguyen, Alison Nordt, Jeffrey Olson, Deborah Padgett, Michael Petach, Susanna Petro, John Pohner, Klaus Pontoppidan, Alexandra Pope, Daniel Ramspacker, Alison Rao, Thomas Roellig, Itsuki Sakon, Carly Sandin, Karin Sandstrom, Douglas Scott, Len Seals, Kartik Sheth, Lawrence M. Sokolsky, Johannes Staguhn, John Steeves, Kevin Stevenson, Eric Stoneking, Kate Su, Kiarash Tajdaran, Steven Tompkins, Joaquin Vieira, Cassandra Webster, Martina C. Wiedner, Edward L. Wright, Chi Wu, Jonas Zmuidzinas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Origins Space Telescope will trace the history of our origins from the time dust and heavy elements permanently altered the cosmic landscape to present-day life. How did galaxies evolve from the earliest galactic systems to those found in the Universe today? How do habitable planets form? How common are life-bearing worlds? To answer these alluring questions, Origins will operate at mid-and far-infrared (IR) wavelengths and offer powerful spectroscopic instruments and sensitivity three orders of magnitude better than that of the Herschel Space Observatory, the largest telescope flown in space to date. We describe the baseline concept for Origins recommended to the 2020 US Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The baseline design includes a 5.9-m diameter telescope cryocooled to 4.5 K and equipped with three scientific instruments. A mid-infrared instrument (Mid-Infrared Spectrometer and Camera Transit spectrometer) will measure the spectra of transiting exoplanets in the 2.8 to 20 μm wavelength range and offer unprecedented spectrophotometric precision, enabling definitive exoplanet biosignature detections. The far-IR imager polarimeter will be able to survey thousands of square degrees with broadband imaging at 50 and 250 μm. The Origins Survey Spectrometer will cover wavelengths from 25 to 588 μm, making wide-area and deep spectroscopic surveys with spectral resolving power R ∼ 300, and pointed observations at R ∼ 40,000 and 300,000 with selectable instrument modes. Origins was designed to minimize complexity. The architecture is similar to that of the Spitzer Space Telescope and requires very few deployments after launch, while the cryothermal system design leverages James Webb Space Telescope technology and experience. A combination of current-state-of-the-art cryocoolers and next-generation detector technology will enable Origins' natural background-limited sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number011002
JournalJournal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • biosignatures
  • cryogenic
  • galaxy evolution
  • infrared
  • planet formation
  • space telescope
  • spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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