One of the unexplored domains in the study of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) is the early time phase of the optical light curve. We have proposed Ultra-Fast Flash Observatory (UFFO) to address this question through extraordinary opportunities presented by a series of small space missions. The UFFO is equipped with a fast-response Slewing Mirror Telescope that uses a rapidly moving mirror or mirror array to redirect the optical beam rather than slewing the entire spacecraft or telescope to aim the optical instrument at the GRB position. The UFFO will probe the early optical rise of GRBs with sub-second response, for the first time, opening a completely new frontier in GRB and transient studies. Its fast response measurements of the optical emission of dozens of GRB each year will provide unique probes of the burst mechanism and test the prospect of GRB as a new standard candle, potentially opening up the z > 10 universe. We describe the current limit in early photon measurements, the aspects of early photon physics, our soon-to-be-launched UFFO-pathfinder mission, and our next planned mission, the UFFO-100.
E a S Publications Series, 2013, Vol 61, p. 501-515