REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Dec. 12, 2011 -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has completed the space-qualified, graphite composite tubes that will enable the giant sunshield of the James Webb Space Telescope to deploy in space. The company is leading the telescope's design and development under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"This flight manufacturing milestone is significant for the development of the sunshield deployment systems," said James Flynn, Webb telescope sunshield manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "These are highly specialized, one-of-a kind structures. Completing them on schedule is a major step forward for the fabrication of the flight sunshield system."

Attached to the folded sunshield membranes are 14 nested tubes, seven on each side of the spacecraft. These seven tubes and a Stored Tubular Extendible Member (STEM) deployment mechanism make up what is called the Mid Boom Assembly. As this assembly extends horizontally, it pulls on the sunshield membranes, unfolding them. Once the tubes are fully extended, the STEM mechanism retracts and pulls back on a cable, taking up any slack so the membranes stay in place with the proper tension. The telescoping graphite composite tubes are designed by Northrop Grumman Astro Aerospace and manufactured by Webb teammate ATK.

Astro Aerospace, based in Carpinteria, Calif., is a business unit of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. For more than 50 years, Astro Aerospace has pioneered the technology of space deployable structures including AstroMesh furlable reflectors, antennas, truss masts, telescopic booms, Storable Tubular Extendible Members, solar array and planar radar-array deployments.

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