NASA Insignia
Far-IR Surveyor

Origins Space Telescope

The Origins Space Telescope will trace the history of our origins from the time dust and heavy elements permanently altered the cosmic landscape to present-day life. How did galaxies evolve from the earliest galactic systems to those found in the universe today? How do habitable planets form? How common are life-bearing worlds? To answer these alluring questions, Origins will operate at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths and offer powerful spectroscopic instruments and sensitivity three orders of magnitude better than that of Herschel, the largest telescope flown in space to date.

At the conclusion of a 3 ½ year study, the Origins Science and Technology Definition Team recommended to the Decadal Survey a concept for Origins with a 5.9-m diameter telescope cryocooled to 4.5 K and equipped with three scientific instruments. A mid-infrared instrument (MISC-T) will measure the spectra of transiting exoplanets in the 2.8 - 20 µm wavelength range and offer unprecedented sensitivity, enabling definitive biosignature detections. The Far-IR Imager Polarimeter (FIP) will be able to survey thousands of square degrees with broadband imaging at 50 and 250 µm. The Origins Survey Spectrometer (OSS) will cover wavelengths from 25 - 588 µm, make wide-area and deep spectroscopic surveys with spectral resolving power R ~ 300, and pointed observations at R ~ 40,000 and 300,000 with selectable instrument modes. The study report also discusses "upscope" options relative to the baseline concept, one of which would include a fourth studied instrument, the Heterodyne Receiver for Origins (HERO), which would offer spectral resolving power as high as 107.

Origins was designed to minimize complexity. The telescope has a Spitzer-like architecture and requires very few deployments after launch. The cryo-thermal system design leverages JWST technology and experience. A combination of current-state-of-the-art cryocoolers and next-generation detector technology will enable Origins' natural background-limited sensitivity.


  • The Origins Space Telescope Mission Concept Study Team received a 2019 Robert H. Goddard Honor Award "for outstanding team performance resulting in the delivery of a scientifically compelling, executable, low-risk Origins Space Telescope mission concept."
  • The Astrophysics Large Mission Study Teams received a 2019 NASA Group Achievement Award "for the substantial and effective scientific, technical, and management work in developing the Large Mission Concept Studies for the 2020 Astrophysics Decadal Survey." The Origins Study Team was one of four teams honored to receive this award.
  • The Origins study team delivered its final documents to NASA Headquarters on 22 August 2019.
  • The final face-to-face meeting of the Origins STDT was held at the Simons Foundation in New York. See the Events page for details.

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