A large infrared space telescope with a mirror 8 to 10 m in diameter, proposed by NASA as the successor to its Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA's Herschel Space Observatory. SAFIR will study the earliest phases of forming galaxies, stars, and planetary systems at wavelengths from 20 micrometres to one millimetre, where these objects are brightest. The combination of large mirror size and ultra-cold temperature will make SAFIR more than 1 000 times more sensitive than Spitzer or Herschel, and it will approach the ultimate sensitivity limits at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths. ‘Single Aperture’ refers to the telescope's single primary mirror, as distinct from multi-mirror interferometry missions. Launch is not expected until around 2015–20.
Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.