A couple of things...
NASA has selected the micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) micro-shutter technology for further development and use in the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) near-infrared spectrometer international review board assessment in December of the technical and programmatic progress and potential for successful follow-on flight prototype development.
The NGST program was funding three studies exploring two MEMS alternatives (micro-mirrors and micro-shutters) as devices for object selection in a spectrometer. The review of these efforts concluded that the mirco-shutters would provide the optimal contrast needed for typical NGST spectroscopic programs (e.g., programs in the NGST design reference mission; http://www.ngst.nasa.gov/science/drm.html). The successful MEMS micro-shutter development is being lead by the Goddard Space Flight Center (PI: S. H. Moseley).
The NIRSpec will be designed and built by the European Space Agency instrument module. Roughly 18 months from now, ESA and NASA will evaluate the progress of the mirco-shutter device and make a decision whether to include this device in the NIRSpec. ESA is also studying a non-MEMS alternative, should the micro-shutter device not materialize in the appropriate time frame.
On other fronts, our local Assurance Management Office has reported out the results of their Mission Definition Review (MDR), which was held just prior to the MEMS review mentioned above. By and large, they recommend that the project be given the go-ahead to move into Phase B, assuming that we can work off about 10 issues of concern in the coming month. But that's not the end of the story. Discussions continue with our Independent Review Board (IRT) prior to them reporting out their initial confirmation assessment findings (from the same set of briefings) to NASA Headquarters. More on this in the coming weeks ahead. Staffing issues and budget preparations seemed to occupy most of my waking hours this past week, however, along with preparations for next week's ESA and CSA Bilateral Meetings, to be held here in Maryland. Overlaid on top of all this, on Tuesday our new NASA Administrator, Sean O'Keefe, comes to Goddard for the first time, and Dr.David Southwood from ESA comes in for a visit and briefing on NGST on Thursday. Next week promises to be an interesting one, both from an information gathering perspective as well as a scheduling one!
Bernard D. Seery
Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) Project Manager
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Mail Code 443, Bldg. 22/308
Greenbelt, MD 20771