Dr Patrick Slane, director of the Chandra X-ray Center, has sent A Letter to the Chandra Community explaining that NASA plans to close down the Chandra project due to budget constraints.

NASA say that:

The Chandra spacecraft has been degrading over its mission lifetime to the extent that several systems require active management to keep temperatures within acceptable ranges for spacecraft operations. This makes scheduling and the post processing of data more complex, increasing mission management costs beyond what NASA can currently afford.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched in 1999 and is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight-times greater resolution and is able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

There is a review planned for April to discuss options for continuing to operate the observatory within the new budget. The options are to maintain the status quo, restructure the project or terminate the mission. Dr Slane says he'll "continue to strongly make the case for the continued full support of Chandra" but seems to think the new budget will not allow that.

I can't find any references to dollar costs, so how much exactly will NASA save by closing down Chandra?


1 Answer 1


Per this SpaceNews article:

The cuts to the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, though, are more significant. That mission, which received \$68.3 million in 2023, would see its budget cut by 40% to \$41.1 million in the request. The budget proposal also projected further reductions after 2026, falling to just $5.2 million by fiscal year 2029.

Rough estimate, depending on the specifics of the rate of winding down funding, \$100-\$300 million in total across 6 years (assuming constant spend rate at 2023 levels compared to a smooth decline from 2024-2029).

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    $\begingroup$ An interesting followup question might be why it costs $68 M to "run" a satellite, including what fraction is purely the spacecraft management and what is science + data management (target scheduling + pointing, data, etc.) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 22 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh well, for comparison: “The proposal offered a modest reduction in the Hubble Space Telescope, from \$98.3 million in the final fiscal year 2024 spending bill to \$88.9 million.” So it doesn’t sound cheap to maintain ops, and Chandra’s ops are actually the cheaper/more efficient of the two. $\endgroup$ Mar 22 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ Noteworthy: The Chandra X-Ray Center has 180 employees. That alone is at least half of the cost. The mission also pays for the operations center itself (real estate, dedicated equipment within it, utilities, etc), for communications contact time, (presumably) for occasional consultancies, and of course G&A/overhead to Harvard. It all adds up. $\endgroup$ Mar 23 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ Source for the above: science.org/content/article/… , which says that the Chandra X-Ray Center has 180 employees. At \$200K per employee per year (salary, benefits, taxes on the employer, office space, computers and other office equipment, etc.) alone comes to \$36 million per year. Note that this might be conservative for the Boston area. Using \$250K per employee per year (which might be more appropriate given the Boston area) brings that up to \$45 million per year. Having 180 highly educated employees in the Boston area is not cheap. $\endgroup$ Mar 24 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen thanks for the link. I think once you take into account total employee cost like you say, the salaries I saw here: pweb.cfa.harvard.edu/opportunities/sao-employment-opportunities would more or less align with your estimate. $\endgroup$ Mar 24 at 19:10

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