REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Feb. 28, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) successfully completed critical design review, giving Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) the green-light to complete building flight hardware for the mission. As prime contractor, Northrop Grumman is building and integrating LCROSS for NASA Ames Research Center.

LCROSS is a rapid response mission. The contract for the spacecraft was awarded to Northrop Grumman in 2006 and production of many subsystems started shortly after the initial go-ahead. The company expects to deliver the spacecraft for launch 26 months after the program start, in August 2008, or in less than half the time of a typical spacecraft development program.

"We're moving out quickly on this rapid response program," said Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector. "We've streamlined our processes to meet a very tight production schedule. Working with existing technologies, we're confident that we can build and deliver a spacecraft from scratch in just over two years on schedule and on budget."

A secondary payload, LCROSS will accompany the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to the Moon, where it will search for water and water-bearing compounds at the lunar South Pole. Water is essential for supporting future human outposts on the moon and can be broken apart into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used to make rocket fuel.

LCROSS consists of two main components, an expended Centaur upper stage and a Shepherding Spacecraft. On approach to the Moon, the Shepherding Spacecraft will position the upper stage for a precision impact, then separate and perform a braking maneuver in order to observe the upper stage's impact into the Moon.

Weighing about 4,400 pounds, the impact of the Centaur upper stage will create a crater one-third the size of a football field and send a 200,000-metric-ton plume as high as 35 to 40 miles. Sensors will observe and monitor the debris plume, searching for water ice or vapor. Shortly after the Centaur impact, the Shepherding Spacecraft will also impact the Moon, creating a second smaller plume. The impact will present observation opportunities to orbiting assets, such as LRO and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Northrop Grumman will provide the spacecraft design, system engineering and ground equipment for overall integration, which includes adapting the spacecraft subsystems for launch. The company will also provide the avionics and software. NASA Ames Research Center is responsible for mission management, science, operations and payload/instrument development.

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
          (310) 567-5279 (cell)
          sally.koris@ngc.com