Based on an independent science and technical review of the Kepler project’s concept for a Kepler two-wheel mission extension, Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director, has decided to invite Kepler to the Senior Review for astrophysics operating missions in early 2014.
The Kepler team’s proposal, dubbed K2, demonstrated a clever and feasible methodology for accurately controlling the Kepler spacecraft at the level of precision required for scientifically valuable data collection. The team must now further validate the concept and submit a Senior Review proposal that requests the funding necessary to continue the Kepler mission, with sufficient scientific justification to make it a viable option for the use of NASA’s limited resources.
To be clear, this is not a decision to continue operating the Kepler spacecraft or to conduct a two-wheel extended mission; it is merely an opportunity to write another proposal and compete against the Astrophysics division’s other projects for the limited funding available for astrophysics operating missions.
NASA uses the Senior Review process to assist in allocating its limited budget for operating missions during their extended phase. This activity takes place every two years, with the last astrophysics senior review being held in April 2012. The Senior Review Committee evaluates the anticipated science productivity of each mission over the next four years, focusing on the next two years. NASA will use the report of the Senior Review Committee in deciding which astrophysics missions to continue operating in FY2015 and FY2016.
Astrophysics projects that will be evaluated during the 2014 Senior Review include Hubble, Chandra, Fermi, Kepler, NuSTAR, Spitzer, Suzaku, Swift, XMM-Newton and WISE (MaxWISE).