More reports on: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA to use two former spy telescopes to search for dark energy

28 April 2015

NASA plans to use two former spy telescopes in its search for the mysterious dark energy, which makes up over 68 per cent of the universe.

According to a senior official involved in the project, the US space agency might request money in the budget next year, to start using the telescopes it received from the US' spy satellite agency.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) had given the satellites to NASA in 2012, which could be used in a space mission named WFIRST-AFTA (the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets). The launch date has been planned for as early as 2024, according to

According to Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics chief, WFIRST-AFTA's science goals included learning more about the mysterious dark energy that was accelerating the expansion of the universe. He added they had the goal of using the telescopes as they were, and they did not have to make modifications, but they did have to resurface the mirror, as it had been sitting in storage.

When the programme moved forward, one of the telescopes would be used for space observations, while the other would remain on the ground as an engineering test bed. He added, at some point, the engineering telescope could be freed for other uses - including, perhaps, a space mission, Hertz said.

The NASA team was, however, undecided whether these should be closer to the earth so that these could send the data to the researchers more quickly or farther away so the telescopes could get a broader view without being blocked by planet earth.

The team might place the telescopes either in an orbit a few thousand miles from the earth or at a stable gravitational point around 1.5 million km from our planet.

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