Some additional enhancements have been considered by the task group but were not discussed extensively with representatives from Lockheed and Itek. Furthermore, no quantitative details of these enhancements have been considered by the task group itself. It is likely that these enhancements would have a much greater cost impact on the mission than those discussed above. In addition, it is not clear if their implementation would be consistent with the goals of a possible national security mission. Therefore they are included here only for completeness and as suggestions for more detailed consideration at a later date. These improvements include:
Modifying the ATD/NTOT’s orbit to minimize and/or stabilize the thermal load on the spacecraft. The thermal load in the Molniya orbit varies significantly with orbital phase. Several possible alternatives exist, and their practicality should be explored.
Optimizing the design to enhance the passive-cooling characteristics of the telescope and focal-plane instruments. Cooling could have a significant impact on the astronomical return and could enhance understanding of the technological aspects of, for example, stabilizing an active mirror at low and variable temperatures.
Possibly adding dedicated instruments for scientific research either instead of or in addition to modifying the ATD/NTOT’s instrument suite. Such an instrument might be an infrared camera with far fewer optical components in the path than are in the baseline design.
Even without all the possible enhancements, it is clear that the ATD/NTOT mission, at least if flown with the task group’s suggested, critical enhancements (improved figure of the primary mirror, optical framing camera, and thermal control), can contribute dramatically to astronomy, both in the development of future missions and in the return of key astronomical data. The ATD/NTOT’s advertised ability to make these contributions at relatively low cost, by using off-the-shelf components of previously unavailable technology, offers the possibility of dramatic breakthroughs for the future of astronomical missions in space.