HEA: Missions: Gen-X

The Generation-X Mission is an X-ray telescope designed to study the new frontier of astrophysics: the birth and evolution of the first stars, galaxies and black holes in the early Universe. X-ray astronomy offers an opportunity to detect these via the activity of the black holes, and the supernova explosions and gamma-ray burst afterglows of the massive stars. However, such objects are beyond the grasp of current missions which are operating or even under development. Our team has conceived a Generation-X Mission based on an X-ray observatory with 50 m2 collecting area at 1 keV (500 times larger than Chandra) and 0.1 arcsecond angular resolution (several times better than Chandra and 50 times better than the IXO resolution goal). Such a high energy observatory will be capable of detecting the earliest black holes and galaxies in the Universe, and will also study the chemical evolution of the Universe and extremes of density, gravity, magnetic fields, and kinetic energy which cannot be created in laboratories.

NASA has funded two studies for Gen-X. Under the Vision Mission Study (completed in 2005) two mission architectures were developed together with a preliminary technology development plan for the mission. One architecture consisted of multiple launches of 6 identical telescopes and the other considered a formation flying option.

The second study was selected under the present Astrophysics Strategic Mission Concept (ASMC) program and is focused on developing a more detailed technology development plan, with costs, for the driving mission technologies: the X-ray optics and the X-ray detectors. A new streamlined mission architecture has also been developed, based on the planned Ares V heavy lift capability. The output from the ASMC study will be provided as input to the Astro2010 Decadal Survey with the goal of technology funding for Gen-X in the coming decade to support launch in the following decade.



  • Detect the first galaxies, stars and black holes
  • Trace the evolution of structure, black holes, and galaxies and the elements they produce from the earliest times to the present epoch
  • Probe the behavior of matter in extreme environments

Mission Concept

  • Single spacecraft with an extendible 60 meter bench connecting grazing-incidence optics to the spacecraft and science instruments.
  • Direct delivery to Sun-Earth L2 orbit with the Ares V launch vehicle

Technology Development

  • Telescope and optics
  • Science instruments
  • Spacecraft and mission

Papers and Talks


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