REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 14, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- NASA has declared Aura, the newest Earth Observing system (EOS) satellite built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) operational. Aura, the second EOS satellite built by the company for NASA, has started to provide the most comprehensive space-based measurements ever of atmospheric gases.

Northrop Grumman turned over the symbolic "key" to the spacecraft in a ceremony held today at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Aura will be operated by engineers and technicians stationed at Goddard's mission control center for the next six years. Aura was launched July 15 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

"Aura's smooth transition to operational status is an example of our company's commitment to mission success and close partnership with NASA Goddard," said Wes Bush, president of Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector. "We are confident that Aura, like its sibling Aqua, will make major contributions to the understanding of long-term climate changes over its lifetime."

Aura is a member of Northrop Grumman's family of spacecraft that feature low-jitter, precision pointing and longevity for scientific and operational remote sensing missions. The versatile spacecraft has a large payload deck that was easily adapted for the mission-specific needs of Aura and Aqua, and will be adapted for future earth observation missions such as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System.

Northrop Grumman applied the lessons learned building Aqua to Aura to reduce costs and improve quality. Design changes were minimized, mature flight software was used, common parts were bought at the same time, and experienced personnel was retained to work on Aura.

Aura carries instruments that have already begun working together to provide measurements in the troposphere and stratosphere. The satellite will help to answer key scientific questions - Is the Earth's ozone layer recovering? What are the processes controlling air quality? How is the Earth's climate changing?

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With 125,000 employees, and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

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  CONTACT:  Sally Koris
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology 
          (310) 812-4721
          sally.koris@ngc.com