Giant next generation space telescope will look at a version that could launch on a SpaceX BFR

NASA had funded a study that would examine SpaceX’s next-gen BFR rocket as an option for launching LUVOIR. The Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor (LUVOIR) is a concept for a highly capable, multi-wavelength space observatory.

On June 1, 2018, NASA HQ instructed the Decadal Mission studies (HabEx, LUVOIR, Lynx, and OST) to produce versions of their concepts that fit into the $3-5 billion cost box. LUVOIR was exempt from this instruction.

On June 14, 2018, NASA HQ withdrew the aforementioned June 1 memo and replaced it with new directions. The new memo acknowledges that all four studies are planning to design less costly second mission concepts, and notes that the LUVOIR-B architecture already under development has a roughly 50% size reduction compared to LUVOIR-A. HabEx, Lynx, and OST are given the goal of developing a second concept with an estimated cost less than about $5 billion.

The LUVOIR study team is considering two architectures, one with a 15-m mirror (Architecture A), and another with a ~8-m mirror (Architecture B). Architecture A is designed for launch on NASA’s planned Space Launch System (SLS), while Architecture B is being designed to launch on a heavy-lift launch vehicle with a 5-m diameter fairing, similar to those in use today.

A third version for launch be the SpaceX BFR should be similar to the 15-meter mirror. The new under $5 billion cost directive could change the size and design.