PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEJune 24, 1996
CONTRACTS AWARDED FOR SPACE INFRARED TELESCOPE FACILITY
NASA today awarded three new contracts toward development of the
$443-million Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), a
high-priority astrophysics mission to explore the birth and
evolution of the universe, planned for launch as early as 2001.
Lockheed-Martin Missiles and Space of Sunnyvale, CA, and Ball
Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, CO, were chosen to
team with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design, develop, test
and integrate SIRTF. JPL manages the SIRTF project for NASA's
Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
Ball was chosen to design and develop the cryogenic telescope
assembly. Lockheed-Martin was selected to provide the SIRTF
spacecraft and, under a separate contract, to perform SIRTF's system-level
integration and test.
The contracts are collectively valued at about $160 million, with
$20 million allotted for definition work (Phase B) beginning in
October 1996 and continuing for 18 months. Another $140 million would be
provided for work during the project's design and development
period (Phase C/D), pending Congressional approval in fiscal year 1998.
"SIRTF will be a major step forward in the design of infrared
astronomical space observatories," said Dr. Frank Giovane, SIRTF
program executive at NASA Headquarters. " It incorporates the most
advanced detector and telescope technology, the result of years
of research by American industry. Consequently, SIRTF will far exceed the
capabilities of previous infrared telescopes, and I believe it
will make major advances in our understanding of the universe."
Some of SIRTF's innovations include a unique solar orbit
(trailing the Earth as it moves around the Sun), state-of-the-art
infrared technology, a new, lightweight cryogenic telescope made entirely of
beryllium, and a cost-saving telescope cooling system that
reduces the amount of cryogen that will be used to maintain the low temperatures
required for sensitive infrared observations.
SIRTF has been designated as the highest-priority major mission
for all U.S. astronomy in the 1990s by the National Academy of
Sciences, and for more than a decade has been recognized as a key element
in the NASA astrophysics program. "In that time, SIRTF has
undergone radical redesign to meet challenging cost constraints and to be
consistent with the new NASA paradigm of faster, better,
cheaper," said Larry Simmons, SIRTF project manager at JPL.
Rather than award a single contract for development of SIRTF, the
contracts were awarded in three specialized areas. "We've broken
the contracts into three parts to allow us to form the best possible
team to develop the overall observatory using the new concept of
an integrated project team rather than the historical systems contractor
approach," said Simmons.
Plans call for SIRTF's initial development activity to take place
at JPL with representatives from each of the contractor teams in
residence for the early systems definition period through completion of the
project's requirements review.
"Our expectation is that having a NASA/JPL/contractor team assume
responsibility for SIRTF will enable us to complete the most
capable infrared facility possible within SIRTF's fixed budget," Simmons
Astronomers will use SIRTF to explore the infrared universe with
a depth and precision complementary to that achieved by NASA's
other great Observatories -- the Hubble Space Telescope, the Advanced
X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) and the Compton Gamma Ray
Observatory. SIRTF's planned launch in 2001 would permit
overlapping, synergistic observations with both Hubble and AXAF.
The mission also will provide key data to NASA's new Origins
program -- a multifaceted research endeavor to learn the origins
of galaxies, stars, planets and the universe as a whole, and to search for
Earth-like planets around nearby stars.
The SIRTF World Wide Web home page is located at the address