REDONDO BEACH, Calif., March 16, 2009 -- NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) took a step forward as the sunshield's membrane management subsystem, built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), passed a preliminary design audit. This was the last remaining design feature of the sunshield to reach this level of review, and completes the preliminary design review process for the entire sunshield.

The membrane management subsystem consists of covers and constraint devices used to protect and manage the membranes while stowed during launch, as well as features used to control the membranes during the deployment process. The five-layer, tennis-court-sized sunshield membrane blocks solar heat, keeping the telescope's science instruments operating at cryogenic temperatures.

"This milestone completes the preliminary design review process and lets us begin the detailed engineering design of the entire sunshield architecture," said Martin Mohan, JWST program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "This also allows us to meet our cost targets and maintain the delivery schedule for the Observatory."

The next milestone for the sunshield, the critical design review, is scheduled for September 2009. Following this, the sunshield will be ready for manufacturing. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for JWST, leading a design and development team under contract to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The next-generation premier space observatory, the JWST will explore deep space phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets and stars. From the first light after the Big Bang to the formation of star systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, JWST will give scientists clues about the formation of the universe and the evolution of our own solar system.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Sally Koris
          Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems