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NASA's Northrop Grumman-Built Chandra X-ray Observatory Celebrates Fifth Anniversary On-Orbit

Press Release From: Northrop Grumman Corporation
Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, built by Northrop Grumman Corporation, celebrated its fifth year on-orbit today observing X-rays in proto-stellar jets, gathering data on the nature of cold fronts in galaxy clusters and performing other tasks.

Chandra has achieved numerous scientific firsts, contributed to Nobel prize-winning science, and enhanced man's understanding of distant galaxies, planets, black holes and stars, and other celestial phenomena. NASA extended Chandra's mission to 10 years from five as a result of these contributions, doubling its opportunity to make new discoveries.

``We're very proud to be celebrating the accomplishments of this great observatory with our NASA customer and the science community,'' said Wes Bush, president, Northrop Grumman Space Technology. ``Chandra has expanded our understanding of the universe. We are putting the experience gained on Chandra to use building the James Webb Space Telescope and a new generation of space science missions.''

Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector was selected in 1988 by Marshall Space Flight Center as the prime contractor to build Chandra, along with teammates Eastman Kodak and Ball Aerospace. It is the third in NASA's series of four Great Observatories, which are space-borne observatories designed to conduct astronomical studies over many different wavelengths.

A structurally advanced satellite, the Northrop Grumman team developed innovative technical solutions when building Chandra that have facilitated other endeavors, such as the James Webb Space Telescope. These technical solutions include precision alignment of large mirrors; precision integration and test techniques; and techniques for precision structural stability.

Extensive testing and pathfinders, or engineering models, were used to validate the design and reduce the risk of building this complex satellite.

Over the past five years, some of Chandra's most notable discoveries have been:

-- A galaxy, NGC 6240, which was discovered to have two super massive black holes orbiting each other in its nucleus;

-- X-rays which gave astronomers a unique look at the sparse upper atmosphere of Mars and provided evidence for a faint halo of X-rays that extends 7,000 kilometers above the surface;

-- The Black Widow pulsar, a neutron star that is destroying its stellar companion.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology, based in Redondo Beach, Calif., develops a broad range of systems at the leading edge of space, defense and electronics technology. The sector creates products for U.S. military and civilian customers that contribute significantly to the nation's security and leadership in science and technology.

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