REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Nov. 6, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The U.S. Patent Office recently awarded a patent to five Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) engineers for a unique payload positioning boom that increases the ability of space telescopes to observe more of the sky while creating a variety of design, fuel and service efficiencies.

The patent was awarded to Charles Lillie, Terrestrial Planet Finder program manager and independent research and development (IRAD) manager; Dean Dailey, mechanical design engineer; Martin Flannery, optical design engineer; Allen Bronowicki, technical fellow; and Jon Arenberg, deputy systems engineer for James Webb Space Telescope. The work was funded by the company's IRAD initiative to develop design concepts for future space observatories, such as NASA's Single Aperture Far Infrared (SAFIR) telescope and Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) Coronagraph missions.

"We are extremely proud of this achievement that acknowledges the groundbreaking work of some of the best engineering minds in the world," said Alexis Livanos, Northrop Grumman corporate vice president and president of the company's Space Technology sector. "It is another outstanding example of our ability to provide innovative and efficient solutions for our customer and create technology that has wide utility for future civil space and defense applications."

The patented positioning boom is a long, gimbaled arm that attaches the payload to the spacecraft. The boom's flexibility allows the telescope a wider range of elevation angles, which more than doubles the area of observed sky. By isolating the telescope from spacecraft vibrations and heat, the boom improves telescope performance and enables the use of a smaller sunshield. The boom's ability to move the center of the satellite's mass minimizes fuel usage and tracking adjustments and increases observing efficiency. Servicing the telescope and upgrading instruments are also easier because the boom allows easier access to serviceable components.

"Everyone on the team worked very hard and made significant contributions to the success of this concept," noted Lillie. "We built on lessons learned from the James Webb Space Telescope design to create a more flexible method of mounting the payload on the spacecraft platform that would improve performance and facilitate servicing. The Hubble Space Telescope showed us the importance of updating the instruments, and we will be able to improve the performance of future space observatories by one to two orders of magnitude by installing new instrument technology as it becomes available."

The newly patented boom will have application on SAFIR, slated to launch between 2020 and 2025. A large cryogenic space telescope that resembles the Webb Telescope, SAFIR will provide unprecedented sensitivity in the range between infrared wavelengths probed with Webb telescope and microwave wavelengths observed by ground telescopes. SAFIR will explore the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the universe's distant past.

The boom will also have an application on TPF. TPF is envisioned as a suite of two complementary observatories: a coronagraph operating at visible wavelengths and a large-baseline interferometer operating in the infrared. It will study all aspects of planets outside our solar system and will allow atmospheric chemists and biologists to determine if a planet can support life.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT: Sally Koris
         Northrop Grumman Space Technology
         (310) 812-4721