Stephan McCandliss and Team Awarded Astrophysics Research Analysis Grant from NASA for FORTIS Sounding Rocket Experiment

NASA has awarded Physics and Astronomy Research Professor Stephan McCandliss, and his Co-Investigators at Goddard Space Flight Center lead by S. Harvey Moseley, a 5-year, $4.4M Astrophysics Research Analysis (APRA) grant to develop the next generation of a sounding rocket borne experiment called the Far-UV Off Rowland-circle Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy (FORTIS). The goal of the FORTIS investigation is to demonstrate the scientific utility of multi-object spectroscopy over wide angular fields in the far-UV, while providing inflight testing for the next generation of microshutter arrays and large area microchannel plate detectors.

The goal of the proposal is to demonstrate the scientific utility of multiobject 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.

The team will also incorporate long life microchannel plate (MCP) detectors that 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. The team 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.

See the other projects that were awarded APRA grants from NASA.