SPICA is a far-infrared astronomy joint European-Japanese project. A proposal was submitted in late 2016 to the ESA Cosmic Vision call for an M-type mission. The SPICA proposal passed the technical and programmatic assessment, and is currently being reviewed by the ESA Science Assessment Report Panel (SARP). The current timeline assumes a pre-selection of the M5 proposals by the end of 2017. The goal of the launch is in the late 2020's.
With a 2.5-meter diameter, its large mirror will be actively cooled down to less than 8K. SPICA will achieve high sensitivity and spatial resolution. At least two instruments are currently planned in the payload: i) the European SAFARI (SpicA FAR-infrared Instrument) will operate from 34 to 230 microns with a spectral resolution from 300 to 11,000, together with a far-infrared imaging polarimeter; and ii) the mid-infrared camera and spectrometer (12-36 microns with various spectral resolutions).
The figure shows the thermal infrared radiation of warm telescopes (>20 K, red lines) in comparison with typical astronomical diffuse emission (blue lines). The emission of such warm telescopes completely dominate in the mid-infrared regime, hindering high-sensitivity observations. In contrast, the infrared emission of SPICA's cryogenically-cooled telescope will be reduced significantly, virtually providing no contribution in the wavelength coverage of SPICA. Astronomical diffuse emission and confusion will be the only limiting background. The green box corresponds to the wavelength coverage of SAFARI.
For more information:
The SPICA mission