Mission typeInfrared astronomy
OperatorESA / JAXA
COSPAR ID Edit this at Wikidata
Mission duration3 years (science mission)
5 years (design goal) [1][2]
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass3650 kg [3]
Payload mass600 kg
Dimensions5.9 x 4.5 m [3]
Power3 kW from a 14 m2 solar array[3]
Start of mission
Launch date2032 [4]
Launch siteTanegashima, LA-Y
ContractorMitsubishi Heavy Industries
Orbital parameters
Reference systemSun–Earth L2
RegimeHalo orbit
Main telescope
Diameter2.5 m
Collecting area4.6 m2 [5]
WavelengthsFrom 12 μm (mid-infrared)
to 230 μm (far-infrared) [1][2]
SAFARI SpicA FAR-infrared Instrument
SMI SPICA Mid-Infrared Instrument
B-BOP Magnetic field explorer with BOlometers and Polarizers

The Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA), was a proposed infrared space telescope, follow-on to the successful Akari space observatory. It was a collaboration between European and Japanese scientists, which was selected in May 2018 by the European Space Agency (ESA) as a finalist for the next Medium class Mission 5 of the Cosmic Vision programme, to launch in 2032.[6] At the time the other two finalists were THESEUS and EnVision, with the latter that was eventually selected for further development.[7] SPICA would have improved on the spectral line sensitivity of previous missions, the Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes, between 30 and 230 µm by a factor of 50—100.[8]

A final decision was expected in 2021,[4] but in October 2020, it was announced that SPICA was no longer being considered as a candidate for the M5 mission.[9][10]


In Japan, SPICA was first proposed in 2007, initially called HII-L2 after the launch vehicle and orbit, as a large Strategic L-class mission,[11][12][13] and in Europe it was proposed to ESA's Cosmic Vision programme (M1 and M2),[11] but an internal review at ESA at the end of 2009 suggested that the technology readiness for the mission was not adequate.[14][15][16]

In May 2018, it was selected as one of three finalists for the Cosmic Vision Medium Class Mission 5 (M5) for a proposed launch date of 2032.[4] Within ESA, SPICA was part of the Medium Class-5 (M5) mission competition, with a cost cap of 550M Euros.[17]

It stopped being a candidate for M5 in October 2020 due to financial constraints.[9]


The concept was a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). If funded, the telescope would have been launched on JAXA's H3 launch vehicle.

The Ritchey–Chrétien telescope's 2.5-metre mirror (similar in size to the mirror of the Herschel Space Observatory) would have been made of silicon carbide, possibly by ESA given their experience with the Herschel telescope. The main mission of the spacecraft would have been the study of star and planetary formation. It would have been able to detect stellar nurseries in galaxies, protoplanetary discs around young stars, and exoplanets, helped by its own coronograph for the latter two types of objects.


The observatory would have featured a far-infrared spectrometer and was proposed to be deployed in a halo orbit around the L2 point. The design featured V-groove radiators and mechanical cryocoolers rather than liquid helium to cool the mirror to below 8 K (−265.15 °C)[2] (versus the 80 K or so of a mirror cooled only by radiation like Herschel's) which provides substantially greater sensitivity in the 10–100 μm infrared band (IR band); the telescope was intended to observe infrared light at longer wavelengths than the James Webb Space Telescope. Its sensitivity would have been more than two orders of magnitude over both the Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes.[2]

Large-aperture Cryogenic Telescope

SPICA would have employed a 2.5 m diameter Ritchey–Chrétien telescope with a field of view of 30 arc minutes.[18]

Focal-Plane Instruments


As in the name, the main objective was to make advancement in the research of cosmology and astrophysics. Specific research fields include:

Discovery science

See also


  1. ^ a b "Instruments oboard SPICA". JAXA. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d SPICA Mission. SPICA Home Site.
  3. ^ a b c d SPICA - a large cryogenic infrared space telescope Unveiling the obscured Universe. (PDF). P.R. Roelfsema, and al. arXive; 28 March 2018.doi:10.1017/pas.2018.xxx
  4. ^ a b c "ESA selects three new mission concepts for study". 7 May 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  5. ^ SPICA/SAFARI Fact Sheet. (PDF)
  6. ^ "SPICA: an infrared telescope to look back into the early universe". thespacereview.com. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  7. ^ "ESA selects revolutionary Venus mission EnVision". 10 June 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  8. ^ a b André, Ph.; Hughes, A.; Guillet, V.; Boulanger, F.; Bracco, A.; Ntormousi, E.; Arzoumanian, D.; Maury, A.J.; Bernard, J.-Ph.; Bontemps, S.; Ristorcelli, I.; Girart, J.M.; Motte, F.; Tassis, K.; Pantin, E.; Montmerle, T.; Johnstone, D.; Gabici, S.; Efstathiou, A.; Basu, S.; Béthermin, M.; Beuther, H.; Braine, J.; Francesco, J. Di; Falgarone, E.; Ferrière, K.; Fletcher, A.; Galametz, M.; Giard, M.; et al. (9 May 2019). "Probing the cold magnetized Universe with SPICA-POL (B-BOP)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. 36. arXiv:1905.03520. doi:10.1017/pasa.2019.20. S2CID 148571681.
  9. ^ a b "SPICA no longer candidate for ESA's M5 mission selection". ESA. 15 October 2020.
  10. ^ "SPICA no longer candidate for ESA's M5 mission selection". ISAS. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  11. ^ a b SPICA - Current status. JAXA.
  12. ^ "The Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics: Revealing the Origins of Planets and Galaxies".
  13. ^ Goicoechea, J. R.; Isaak, K.; Swinyard, B. (2009). "Exoplanet research with SAFARI: A far-IR imaging spectrometer for SPICA". arXiv:0901.3240 [astro-ph.EP].
  14. ^ SPICA technical review report. ESA. 8 December 2009.
  15. ^ "SPICA's Mission". SPICA Website. JAXA. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  16. ^ "A new start for the SPICA mission" (PDF). JAXA. February 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  17. ^ "Announcement of the plans for the issuing of a Call for a Medium-size mission for launch in 2029-2030 (M5)". 20 July 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Instruments onboard SPICA". www.ir.isas.jaxa.jp. Retrieved 2 May 2016.