NASA has posted a request for information on U.S.-based private organizations that can take over operations of the agency’s infrared observatory, SpaceNews reported Tuesday.
The space agency aims to hand over operations of the Spitzer Space Telescope because agency funding for the spacecraft will end in 2019.
NASA currently plans to operate Spitzer through March 2019 to carry out preparatory observations for the James Webb Space Telescope, then end the infrared observatory mission by fiscal year 2020.
The plan is based on the original fall 2018 launch schedule of JWST, which has been moved to spring 2019.
Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, Spitzer project manager, said during a meeting of the Astrophysics Advisory Committee that Spitzer could operate through November 2020 and that the spacecraft still contains half of its nitrogen gas supply — the spacecraft’s only consumable.
Respondents should inform NASA on how they would cover funds needed to operate Spitzer beyond March 2019; when they would take over operations; and how they would perform an observing program through the space telescope.
Spitzer was launched in 2003 as part of NASA’s Great Observatories program, which sought to observe the universe at various electromagnetic wavelengths.
Responses to the RFI are due Nov. 7.