REDONDO BEACH, Calif., July 22, 2009 -- Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's flagship mission for X-ray astronomy built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), was launched into orbit by the Space Shuttle 10 years ago on July 23, 1999 and almost immediately began to expand the frontiers of astronomy.
Built by Northrop Grumman for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Chandra's first light image gave astronomers their first glimpse of the point source at the center of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. Since then, Chandra has significantly expanded the frontiers of astronomy, providing insight into the birth and death of stars and the lifecycles of galaxies. Chandra has produced more than 9,800 observations and logged more than 60,000 hours of on-target science observing time.
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Data from Chandra gave scientists the first glimpse of a supernova remnant containing a black hole, and the shadow of a small galaxy as it was cannibalized by a larger one. The Observatory has revolutionized our understanding of dark energy, a mysterious force that is pushing galaxies apart and causing the universe to expand. Just two years ago, Chandra uncovered evidence of a major new class of supernova and revealed a blast from a huge black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
"Chandra has significantly expanded the world's scientific knowledge base about the nature of our universe," said Dave DiCarlo, sector vice president and general manager of the company's Space Systems Division. "Its has opened up new vistas of study for the world's astronomers and provided technology and integration and test techniques that we're using to develop the next generation of space observatories. Chandra has exceeded its five-year design life by 100 percent and continues to observe celestial phenomena."
The Northrop Grumman team developed innovative technical solutions when building Chandra. These technical solutions include precision alignment of large mirrors; precision integration and test techniques; and techniques for precision structural stability. Extensive testing and pathfinders were used to validate the design and reduce the risk of building the complex satellite and many of the lessons learned are now being applied to new missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope.
On orbit, Chandra satisfied or bettered all initial 21 key performance measures. Furthermore, ten years into its mission, Chandra continues to perform near flawlessly.
"We are thrilled to be celebrating Chandra's 10 year milestone and continue to be impressed with the superb performance of the spacecraft hardware and the flight software developed and built by Northrop Grumman," said Roger Brissenden, Chandra X-ray Center Manager. "Under the excellent guidance of the Northrop Grumman flight operations team, Chandra has given us a near optimal science mission so far, and we are very excited to be embarking on its next decade of discovery."
In addition to fulfilling its promise illuminating the stars, Chandra has also shone brightly on Earth. The teams responsible for the design and execution of the Chandra mission have received many prestigious awards, including a Nobel Prize for Chandra's co-creator Ricardo Giacconi and for members of the Northrop Grumman team; the NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award; and a "Silver Snoopy" award.
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