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NASA Considers $1B Astrophysics Missions Based on Decadal Survey; Paul Hertz Quoted

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NASA has announced new mission plans based on input from the Astro2020 astrophysics decadal survey, which was published in November, Space News reported Wednesday.

The space agency said Tuesday at an online town hall meeting that it will pursue probe-class astrophysics missions, which fall in the middle of smaller Explorer-class and larger flagship missions.

Paul Hertz, who leads NASA’s astrophysics division, said at the meeting that NASA will follow a $1 billion cost cap per mission, excluding launch costs, international contributions and post-launch observer programs.

The survey recommended a focus on probe-class missions with a cost cap of $1.5 billion for each mission as concept studies suggest these efforts struggle to stay within $1 billion.

Hertz said NASA’s considered $1 billion cap combined with the excluded costs would amount to a total of approximately $1.5 billion, which follows the decadal survey’s suggestion.

The division director said NASA expects to launch one probe-class astrophysics mission per decade due to limits of the space agency’s astrophysics budget.

“If the astrophysics budget grows fast enough to accommodate the recommendations of the decadal survey plus an increased probe cadence, NASA would certainly be open to that,” he stated.