Due to the lack of attenuation by water vapor in space, near-infrared to mid-infrared space-based spectrometers are becoming more important in the astrophysics, planetary science, and earth science communities. Despite their growth in utilization, current spectrographs suffer from one or more noteworthy weaknesses: they offer only low- to medium-resolution, they observe over a very limited wavelength range, and/or they demand large masses and power. These limitations directly translate into increased costs and reduced flight opportunities.
One of the most straightforward techniques to overcome the weaknesses of current infrared space-based spectrometers is to incorporate a tip-tilt optic to realize the high-resolution while delivering a method for scanning across large wavelength ranges. Since this type of mechanism is perceived as a risk, proving that it meets the necessary technology readiness level (TRL) will eliminate the trepidations held in the community and open the path for regularly utilizing this spectrograph in space-based endeavors. The overall approach for this effort is to design, build, and test HERA and raise the TRL of the instrument to 6. The immediate goal for this effort is to identify the critical science and instrument requirements, and from those requirements produce an instrument design.
Astrophysics and planetary science cases have been researched and finalized. Science Traceability Matrices (STM) have been produced to determine the instrument requirements from the science goals and objectives. Based on the instrument requirements, a balloon-based design of the instrument has been completed. Future efforts include the manufacturing and testing of the instrument, preparatory to flight.