The Webb Science Operations Design Reference Mission 2012

Jason Tumlinson, & Karl Gordon,, for the Webb Efficiency Working Group

The Webb teams from the Institute, Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and the instrument developers recently completed a major exercise in simulating the scientific program of the observatory, called the Science Operations Design Reference Mission (SODRM 2012). This SODRM overhauls the 2005 version, which was built around simpler instruments and based on earlier operational concepts. The new SODRM is designed to represent the range and depth of programs that Webb will carry out during normal science operations. Its main purpose is to provide a realistic test bed for the design and implementation of the Webb ground system at the Institute, and for simulations of the operating schedule for the observatory and its instruments. The SODRM 2012 programs do not represent actual allocations or reservations of observing time, because the real Webb Cycle 1 programs will consist of guaranteed-time observations and programs competitively chosen by the Webb Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC).

Since we wanted a realistic mix of observing programs driven by science, not programmatic or engineering concerns, we asked a broad cross-section of scientists from the Institute, GSFC, and the Webb instrument teams to contribute hypothetical but realistic observing programs focused on science of interest to them, using any or all of the instruments in any combination. This approach ensured balance across science areas.

We asked each contributor to develop their observing program using the Astronomer’s Proposal Tool (APT) software, which produced a uniform body of simulated programs to push through the Institute ground systems as it develops, exactly as if they were real programs. We collected 112 programs for a total of 849 days of time, spread over the whole sky, and ranging from objects in the solar system to the distant universe, as shown in Figure 1.

The results of this effort are already paying off in several ways. First, we have found that the science-driven SODRM program covers nearly every topic in astrophysics. The program includes the classic Webb science themes of star formation, galaxy evolution, first light, and planetary systems, and it adds new observations in rapidly developing fields, such as spectroscopy of molecular ices on dwarf planets, mineralogy of outer planet satellites, exoplanet transit and eclipse spectroscopy, 100-fold multiplexed spectroscopy of dense fields of 10,000 stars, and follow-up of the afterglow of high-z gamma-ray bursts. While this breadth is not surprising for a flagship observatory designed as a major leap in capability, it is gratifying to see that Webb is enabling new types of science not even imagined when it was originally conceived.