Last June, the National Reconnaissance Office gifted a pair of space telescopes it no longer needed to NASA. Described as Hubble-class, these telescopes were originally designed to surveil the planet rather than the stars. NASA can use the scopes as the guts of a pair of new space telescopes--space telescopes that will cost significantly less than they would if the agency was starting from scratch. Hell of a gift, right?
As is usually the case, there's some fine print. The NRO's stipulations are straightforward--basically the scopes can't be sent overseas and they can't be aimed at the Earth. They'll also need to be retrofitted for whatever mission NASA decides to send them on--something that won't happen until after NASA has paid its tab for the James Webb Space Telescope. Because of the wide field of view on these telescopes' optics, a leading candidate is the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST. The WFIRST is designed to study two hot topics in astrophysics, exoplanets and dark energy.