REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Dec. 3, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) moved NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) a step closer to fabrication today with the completion of a preliminary design review (PDR) that verified the integrated performance of all subsystems in the Optical Telescope Element (OTE).

The eye of the Webb Telescope, the OTE, consists of a 6.5-meter (21.3 ft.) primary mirror; secondary, tertiary and fine steering mirrors; and supporting structures, deployable tower and control electronics.

"This milestone allows us to proceed to the final design of the telescope," said Martin Mohan, JWST program manager for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector. "Meeting rigorous technology development requirements and successfully completing component design reviews earlier this year have given us confidence that the telescope will perform its mission within our cost and schedule commitments."

In January, before a team of experts assembled by NASA, the OTE team demonstrated technology maturity sufficient to move into the detailed engineering phase. Technology Readiness Level 6 was achieved for all critical OTE components, meaning prototypes had been successfully tested in a relevant environment (simulating space).

At the PDR, the team also presented a plan for the final assembly and verification of the telescope. This includes all subsystems, backplane, thermal controls and hardware for sub-assemblies as well as simulated space environment testing at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Significant progress is being made on key portions of the OTE. Machining of the 18 primary mirror flight segments was completed earlier this year and currently the backplane, which supports the primary mirror, is being fabricated.

Northrop Grumman is NASA's prime contractor for the Webb Telescope, leading the design and development effort under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The Webb Telescope will be the premier space observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our universe, from the first galaxies assembled in the universe, to the formation of solar systems potentially capable of supporting life, to the evolution of our own solar system.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion aerospace company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., whose 122,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Richard Bent
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology