REDONDO BEACH, Calif., March 28, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- A joint Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)/NASA team received an Exceptional Achievement Award from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) for developing a cost-effective system to test the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This is one of the first such awards given to the JWST team by Goddard.

The team created an entirely new system for testing JWST's primary mirror optics in what may be the most complex cryogenic vacuum test ever, replacing a traditional approach in record time and cutting costs. As prime contractor for JWST, Northrop Grumman worked closely with GSFC and a team that included ITT Industries, NASA centers supporting JWST and subcontractors.

"This is a tremendous achievement and an outstanding example of how Northrop Grumman's JWST engineers teamed with their NASA counterparts, as well as the science community, to achieve all science objectives for the telescope at a dramatically lower cost," said Martin Mohan, JWST program manager for Northrop Grumman Space Technology.

"The new approach saved over $100 million to the JWST program," said Lee Feinberg, JWST telescope manager at GSFC. "In four months, we went from the idea, to peer review, to new baseline testing. That's very fast. Years of work went into creating the previous testing approach."

The original approach called for the primary mirror to be placed in a "cup-down" position - essentially suspended facedown in a thermal vacuum chamber from a 600,000-pound metal tower. The complexity of building the tower added to the schedule, while its mass added time (and cost) to cool the system to the flight-like temperatures required for testing (30 Kelvin or -405 F).

The solution was a simpler "cup-up" configuration, which eliminated the tower by resting the telescope on an isolated support structure on the chamber floor, similar to shock absorbers. The team determined the feasibility of this approach after reviewing every technical aspect of testing, including mechanical designs, thermal assessments, contamination assessments, dynamics and optical assessments.

The JWST program is making excellent progress toward launch in 2013. Among its many accomplishments, the team has completed the manufacturing of all flight mirror blanks, with 17 of 18 segments in precision machining; completed development of a one-sixth-scale test bed telescope to prove wavefront sensing and control algorithms; built a new class-10,000 clean room facility for integration and test; and passed a key milestone earlier this year, the system definition review.

JWST will explore far beyond the reach of current telescopes, peering into the near- and mid-infrared at great distances to search for answers to astronomers' fundamental questions about the birth and evolution of galaxies, the size and shape of the universe, and the mysterious life cycle of matter.

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 approximately 125,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.