Session

Technical Session 6: Science/Mission Payloads

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

Pandora is a SmallSat mission concept, selected as part of NASA’s Astrophysics Pioneers Program, designed to study the atmospheres of exoplanets using transmission spectroscopy. Transmission spectroscopy of transiting exoplanets provides our best opportunity to identify the makeup of planetary atmospheres in the coming decade. Stellar brightness variations due to star spots, however, can seep into these measurements and contaminate the observed spectra. Pandora is designed to disentangle star and planet signals in transmission spectra and reliably characterize the planetary atmospheres. Pandora will collect long-duration photometric observations with a visible-light channel, and simultaneous spectra with a near-IR channel, where water is a strong molecular absorber. The broad wavelength coverage will provide constraints on spot covering fractions of the stars and determine the impact of these active regions on the planetary spectra. Pandora will observe at least 20 exoplanets with sizes ranging from Earth-size to Jupiter-size, with host stars spanning mid-K to late-M spectral types. The project is made possible by leveraging investments in other projects, including an all-aluminum 0.45-meter Cassegrain telescope design, and an IR sensor chip assembly from the James Webb Space Telescope. The mission will last five years from initial formulation to closeout, with one-year of science operations. Launch is planned for the mid-2020s as a secondary payload in Sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit. By design, Pandora has a diverse team, with over half of mission leadership roles filled by early career scientists and engineers, demonstrating the high value of SmallSats for developing the next generation of space mission leaders.

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Aug 9th, 2:00 PM

The Pandora SmallSat: Multiwavelength Characterization of Exoplanets and their Host Stars

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Pandora is a SmallSat mission concept, selected as part of NASA’s Astrophysics Pioneers Program, designed to study the atmospheres of exoplanets using transmission spectroscopy. Transmission spectroscopy of transiting exoplanets provides our best opportunity to identify the makeup of planetary atmospheres in the coming decade. Stellar brightness variations due to star spots, however, can seep into these measurements and contaminate the observed spectra. Pandora is designed to disentangle star and planet signals in transmission spectra and reliably characterize the planetary atmospheres. Pandora will collect long-duration photometric observations with a visible-light channel, and simultaneous spectra with a near-IR channel, where water is a strong molecular absorber. The broad wavelength coverage will provide constraints on spot covering fractions of the stars and determine the impact of these active regions on the planetary spectra. Pandora will observe at least 20 exoplanets with sizes ranging from Earth-size to Jupiter-size, with host stars spanning mid-K to late-M spectral types. The project is made possible by leveraging investments in other projects, including an all-aluminum 0.45-meter Cassegrain telescope design, and an IR sensor chip assembly from the James Webb Space Telescope. The mission will last five years from initial formulation to closeout, with one-year of science operations. Launch is planned for the mid-2020s as a secondary payload in Sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit. By design, Pandora has a diverse team, with over half of mission leadership roles filled by early career scientists and engineers, demonstrating the high value of SmallSats for developing the next generation of space mission leaders.