Montage of our solar system

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has selected three teams of aerospace contracting firms for negotiations leading to conceptual design studies for the telescope portion of the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), an unmanned, Earth-orbiting astronomical observatory planned for launch at the end of this decade.

The three teams are made up of aerospace companies that have demonstrated technological capabilities in the development and management of advanced space optics and cryogenic systems required for the infrared telescope.

SIRTF will open a new window on the universe. From a vantage point 100,000 kilometers (62,000 miles) above Earth's surface, the telescope will conduct a wide range of investigations of astronomical objects that can be observed in infrared light. It will provide 1,000 to 10,000 times the sensitivity of previous orbiting infrared telescopes.

The SIRTF Phase B contracts are valued at $1.275 million each, and are for telescope design definition studies to be conducted now through January 1993.

The teams consist of an overall team leader, an optics specialist and a cryogenics specialist. The following teams were selected: -- The Hughes Aircraft Company's Electro-Optical & Data Systems Group, El Segundo, Calif. (team leader); Hughes Danbury Optical Systems, Danbury, Conn. (optics); Lockheed Missiles and Space Company's Research and Development Division, Palo Alto, Calif., and Space Systems Division, Sunnyvale, Calif. (cryogenics).

-- Rockwell International Corporation's Satellite Space and Electronics Division, Seal Beach, Calif. (team leader); Messerschmidt-Boelkow-Blohm, GmbH (MBB), Munich, Federal Republic of Germany (cryogenics); and Litton Itek Optical Systems Group (BASG), Lexington, Mass. (optics).

-- TRW Inc.'s Space and Technology Group, Redondo Beach, Calif. (team leader); Ball Aerospace Systems Group (BASG), Boulder, Co. (cryogenics); and Eastman Kodak, Rochester, N.Y. (optics).

As currently planned, the SIRTF project is scheduled to start in fiscal year 1993, leading to launch in 1999 or 2000. SIRTF is the fourth in a series of astrophysics observatories to be launched in the 1990s by NASA.

SIRTF is managed by JPL for the Astrophysics Division of the Office of Space Science and Applications of NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

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