Formation flying for a Fresnel lens observatory mission

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Abstract

The employment of a large area Phase Fresnel Lens (PFL) in a gamma-ray telescope offers the potential to image astrophysical phenomena with micro-arcsecond (μ″) angular resolution [1]. In order to assess the feasibility of this concept, two detailed studies have been conducted of formation flying missions in which a Fresnel lens capable of focussing gamma-rays and the associated detector are carried on two spacecraft separated by up to 106 km. These studies were performed at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Integrated Mission Design Center (IMDC) which developed spacecraft, orbital dynamics, and mission profiles. The results of the studies indicated that the missions are challenging but could be accomplished with technologies available currently or in the near term. The findings of the original studies have been updated taking account of recent advances in ion thruster propulsion technology.