List of proposed space observatories

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This list contains proposals for space telescopes, space-based (situated in space) astronomical observatories. The list of proposed space observatories is a list containing examples of past and present space observatory plans, concepts, and proposals. For observatories in orbit, see list of space telescopes. Unlike that list, this list includes concept and proposals that were not and in all likelihood will not ever be launched as they may have been cancelled or were only ever proposals.

Proposed space observatories

Active in this list means it is still under consideration for development, not that it is in orbit

  •    Active
  •    Other
  •    Merged, Cancelled, Superseded

Name Agency Proposed
launch date
Fate Proposed location Ref(s)
LiteBIRD JAXA 2020s Proposed Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point [1]
Advanced Technology Large Aperture Space Telescope Space Telescope Science Institute Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point [2]
X-Ray Evolving Universe Spectroscopy Mission (XEUS) ESA Merged into IXO [3]
Constellation-X NASA Merged into IXO
International X-ray Observatory (IXO) NASA & ESA & JAXA No funding 2011; rebooted as ATHENA [4]
SIM Lite Astrometric Observatory NASA 2015 No funding 2010 [5]
Darwin Mission ESA Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point [6]
Terrestrial Planet Finder NASA TBA No funding 2011 [7]
Dark Universe Observatory NASA Superseded by WFIRST Earth orbit (600 km) [8][9]
Dark Energy Space Telescope NASA & DOE Superseded by WFIRST [10]
Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) (IR) NASA & DOE mid-2020s Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point [11][12][13]
AstroSat-2 ISRO 2020 Low Earth orbit [14]
Astromag Free-Flyer (Particles) NASA 1 January 2005 Earth orbit (500 km) [15][16]
VSOP-2 (Astro-G) (Radio) JAXA 2012 Cancelled 2011 [17]
Exoplanetary Circumstellar Environments and Disk Explorer (EXCEDE) NASA 2016 Sun-synchronous Earth orbit, 2000 km [18][19]
Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) ESA/NASA ~2030s Solar orbit (approx. 1 AU; trailing Earth) [20]
PLATO ESA 2026 Earth L2
World Space Observatory (WSO-UV) RSA [21]
Xuntian Space Telescope CNSA 2022 Low Earth orbit [22]

Additional examples

Calisto architecture for SAFIR.[23]

Design studies

Various proposals or concepts for high-energy light observatories (circa 2010s):[27]

  • AdEPT: Advanced Energetic Pair Telescope: pair production telescope concept for gamma-ray polarimetry
  • APT: Advanced Pair Telescope
  • AEGIS: Astrophysics Experiment for Grating and Imaging Spectroscopy, soft X-ray spectrometer.
  • Arcus, X-ray spectrometer concept for International Space Station
  • ASCOT: Advanced Scintillator Compton Telescope
  • AXSIO: Advanced X-ray Spectroscopic Imaging Observatory
  • AXTAR: Advanced X-Ray Timing Array, X-ray timing mission
  • BEST: Black Hole Evolution and Space-Time Observatory (include deep hard X-ray imaging (5 – 70 keV))
  • Black Hole Finder
  • CASTER: Coded Aperture Survey Telescope for Energetic Radiation
  • EXIST: Energetic X-Ray Imaging Survey Telescope
  • BHI: Black Hole Imager
  • EPE: Extreme Physics Explorer
  • EREXS: Epoch of Reionization Energetic X-ray Survey
  • EXIST: Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope
  • Gen-X: The Generation X-Ray Mission
  • HEX-P: High-Energy X-ray Probe
  • IXPE: Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (to launch in 2021)
  • ISS-Lobster
  • Pharos
  • PRAXyS: Polarimetry of Relativistic X-ray Sources
  • SMART-X: Square Meter, Arcsecond Resolution X-ray Telescope
  • SAHARA: Spectral Analysis with High Angular Resolution Astronomy
  • WhimEx: Warm-Hot Inter-Galactic Medium Explorer
  • WFXIS: Wide-Field X-ray Imaging Spectrometer
  • WFXT: Wide-Field X-ray Telescope
  • Xenia: a Probe of Cosmic Chemical Evolution
  • X-Ray Surveyor
  • A-STAR: All-Sky Transient Astrophysics Explorer
  • Athena, an X-ray observatory
  • EDGE: Explorer of Diffuse emission and Gamma ray burst Explosions
  • GRAVITAS: General Relativistic Astrophysics Via Timing and Spectroscopy
  • LOFT: Large Observatory For X-ray Timing
  • MIRAX: Monitor e Imageador de Raios X
  • NHXM: New Hard X-ray Mission
  • PheniX, focussing X-ray telescope concept
  • Tsubame, micro-satellite for X-ray polarimetry
  • XIPE: the X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer (ESA)

Additional examples and non-space telescopes

For launch in the 2030s, NASA is evaluating four possible designs: the Origins Space Telescope, Lynx X-ray Surveyor, Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx), and Large Ultraviolet-Optical-Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR).[28]

One concept idea is for a 20–30 meter telescope created with balloon in a sub-orbital but extreme high altitude location.[29] The balloon would be transparent on one side, and have a circular reflecting mirror on the other side.[29] There are two main designs using this principle.[29]

  • Large Balloon Reflector (LBR) (sub-orbital version)
  • Space-based Large Balloon Reflector (LBR)
    • TeraHertz Space Telescope (TST)



  1. ^ Concept design of the LiteBIRD satellite for CMB B-mode polarization. Y. Sekimoto; P. Ade; K. Arnold; J. Aumont; J. Austermann, etal. Proceedings Volume 10698, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave; 106981Y (2018) doi:10.1117/12.2313432 Event: SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation, 9 August 2018, Austin, Texas, United States.
  2. ^ "Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope". Space Telescope Science Institute. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
  3. ^ "KEUS – The X-Ray Evolving Universe Spectroscopy Mission". ESA. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  4. ^ "Official NASA IXO Home Page". NASA. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  5. ^ "SIM Lite JPL". NASA. Archived from the original on 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2009-03-19.
  6. ^ "ESA Science & Technology: Darwin". ESA. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  7. ^ "Planet Quest: Missions – Terrestrial Planet Finder". NASA. Archived from the original on 2008-02-18. Retrieved 2008-03-03.
  8. ^ "Dark Universe Observatory". Sonoma State University. Archived from the original on 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  9. ^ "Dark Universe Observatory – About the Launch Vehicle and Orbit". Sonoma State University. Archived from the original on 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  10. ^ "Destiny JDEM Mission Public Page". National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  11. ^ "$1.6 Billion Telescope Would Search Alien Planets and Probe Dark Energy". SPACE. Retrieved 2010-10-09.
  12. ^ "Astro2010 Report Release Presentation". NASA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-10-09.
  13. ^ "NASA Introduces New, Wider Set of Eyes on the Universe" (Press release). 2016-02-18. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  14. ^ "Isro plans to launch India's 2nd space observatory".
  15. ^ "NASA – NSSD – Spacecraft – Trajectory Details (Astromag FF)". NASA. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
  16. ^ "NASA – NSSDC – Spacecraft – Details (Astromag-F)". NASA. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
  17. ^ "VSOP-2 project". JAXA. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  18. ^ "EXCEDE Home Page". University of Arizona. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  19. ^ "EXCEDE the Search for Planets". Astrobiology magazine. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  20. ^ LISA Consortium. "LISA: Laser Interferometer Space Antenna" (PDF). Retrieved 29 January 2017. [permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "WSO-UV". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  22. ^ "China's Answer To The Hubble Telescope". Popular Science. March 11, 2016.
  23. ^ "SAFIR - Technologies". Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  24. ^ "M. Wong , et al. – A Dedicated Space Observatory for Time-domain Solar System Science" (PDF). Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  25. ^ "NASA Considers Sending a Telescope to Outer Solar System - Universe Today". 19 December 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  26. ^ "ZEBRA". Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  27. ^ "Concepts for Future High Energy Astrophysics Future Missions". Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  28. ^ Scoles, Sarah. "NASA Considers Its Next Flagship Space Telescope". Scientific American. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  29. ^ a b c Hall, Loura (3 May 2016). "Ballooning Expectations: New Approach for Astronomy". Retrieved 11 August 2017.

External links

  • Video (86:49) – "Search for Life in the Universe"NASA (July 14, 2014).
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