HEAD High Energy Astrophysics Division


Newsletter No. 99, December 2011

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11. NASA Gravitational Wave News (Formerly LISA News)
Michele Vallisneri (JPL)

The European Space Agency is proceeding in its effort to reformulate all-European missions in gravitational waves, X rays, and planetary science for the Cosmic Visions L1 opportunity. Inputs to ESA's advisory structures are being provided now, and the Science Program Committee is expected to make a down-selection in February 2012. ESA would later consider possible NASA participation as a minor partner. Robin Stebbins from the Goddard Space Flight Center was named as U.S. representative on the re-created European Science Working Group for gravitational waves; he has been reporting information on ESA's gravitational-wave mission concept at http://sgo.caltech.edu.

In case the European process does not result in the selection of a gravitational-wave mission, NASA's Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) Program is developing alternative plans to address the high priority LISA science objectives prioritized by the 2010 decadal. To this end, NASA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas for gravitational-wave mission concepts, at various cost points, that satisfy some or all of the LISA science objectives. NASA has also solicited membership in a Community Science Team (CST) who, together with a Core Team of NASA scientists and engineers, will consolidate RFI inputs and formulate notional mission concepts for further study. RFI entries were due on November 10, and the composition of the CST will have been announced by the time this newsletter is published. The results of the studies will be presented in summer 2012 to the National Research Council's Space Studies Board Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA); recommendations from the CAA will then guide the development of future US gravitational-wave missions.

On December 20 and 21, the PCOS Program Office is hosting a workshop on gravitational-wave mission architectural concepts at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum, MD. The workshop will bring together the gravitational-wave and astrophysics communities with the CST and the Core Team to discuss and explore the RFI inputs, as well as 3-4 notional mission concepts formulated by the CST and Core Team, representing a range of cost points. The result of the workshop will be final concepts that will then be studied further for use in the presentation to the CAA; three mission concepts will be submitted to JPL's Team-X, a concurrent design facility, for further study and costing. However, note that the workshop is *not* selecting actual missions for implementation. If you are interested in attending the workshop, either electronically or in person, see http://pcos.gsfc.nasa.gov for logistical information.

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