NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, has selected Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, Sunnyvale, CA, and TRW Inc., Space and Electronics Group, Redondo Beach, CA, for negotiations as industry team members for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM).

SIM is an innovative space system that will be launched in 2005 to measure precisely the location of stars and to search for planets orbiting nearby stars. SIM is part of the Origins Program in NASA's Space Science enterprise, a long-term program to enhance our understanding of the universe and search for life beyond Earth.

The total value of these two contracts, including the mission formulation and implementation phases, is estimated to be in excess of $200 million. The initial contracts will cover the mission's formulation phase, with an option for the implementation phase. During the formulation phase, initial mission design and planning for full-scale implementation will be completed.

"This marks the start of what we envision as an exciting and productive relationship with our industry team members," said Chris Jones, SIM project manager at JPL.

SIM will be placed into an Earth-trailing orbit around the Sun. Its multiple telescopes will be used in pairs; the light they gather will be collected and processed to pinpoint the position of stars. The system will synthesize images that could normally only be obtained with a much larger telescope. It also will demonstrate the ability to "null" or cancel out the light from a star, which will help enable future missions to obtain a direct view of planets around other stars. Interferometry will play a key role in several missions of the Origins program.

SIM will search for planets beyond our solar system by watching for the telltale wobble motion of a star, which indicates the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet or planets. SIM also will image the regions immediately surrounding massive black hole candidates in the nearest galaxies, measure the distances to half a dozen nearby galaxies, and study other celestial objects.

JPL manages SIM for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is a division of Caltech, Pasadena, CA. Additional information on the Space Interferometry Mission is available on the Internet at http://huey.jpl.nasa.gov/sim/. Information on the Origins program is available at http://origins.jpl.nasa.gov


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