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Astrophysics Research and Analysis Program

Rocket and Laboratory Experiments in Astrophysics -- Validation and Verification of the Next Generation FORTIS

Active Technology Project

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Rocket and Laboratory Experiments in Astrophysics -- Validation and Verification of the Next Generation FORTIS
We submit herein a proposal describing plans for further development of a Next Generation Far-UV Off Rowland-circle Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy (FORTIS). The goal of the proposal is to demonstrate the scientific utility of multi-object spectroscopy over wide angular fields in the far-UV with investigations of: the blue straggler population in the Globular Cluster M10; low metallicity star formation in the Magellanic Bridge; shock structures Cygnus Loop supernova remnant; a search for unidentified emissions in star-forming galaxies; and potentially an, as yet, unnamed comet as a target of opportunity. FORTIS is a pathfinder for developing the technologies necessary to enable far-UV spectroscopic surveys. Such surveys will allow us to probe problems relevant to the formation of large scale structures, the origin and evolution of galaxies, and the formation and evolution of stars from interstellar gas. In combination with existing and future spectroscopic surveys, they will provide a complete and compelling panchromatic picture of the observable universe. Next generation FORTIS will fly as a sounding rocket borne instrument and incorporate a number of unique technologies, including the Next Generation MicroShutter Array (NGMSA), which provides for the simultaneous acquisition of spectra from multiple objects within a wide angular field. The NGMSA will be controlled by an autonomous targeting system capable of identifying multiple objects on-the-fly for further spectral analysis in the short time afforded to far-UV observations from a sounding rocket ~ 400 seconds. We will also incorporate long life microchannel plate (MCP) detectors that have have high open area ratios, providing for increased quantum efficiency, and improved resistance to gain sag, allowing operation at higher count rate. Recent flight experience with the first generation FORTIS has provided guidance to improving the science return of the next generation FORTIS. Our plans for a rigorous validation and verification of the science and technology is detailed. This program will serve as the basis of doctoral theses for several graduate students in addition to providing hands-on experience with space science missions to a number of undergraduates. It will enable new science thrusts, enabled by new technologies while cultivating new skillsets in the next generation of space scientists. More »

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