REDONDO BEACH, Calif., March 20, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The tennis court-sized sunshield built by Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has completed its preliminary design review at the company's Redondo Beach facility.

The Webb Telescope is the next-generation space observatory, designed to explore phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets and stars. From the origins of the universe to the formation of star systems capable of supporting life on planets such as Earth, JWST will give scientists unprecedented access to unexplored regions of space.

The five-layer sunshield consists of extremely thin, specially coated reflective membranes and a supporting structure. The sunshield blocks solar heat, keeping the telescope's science instruments operating at cryogenic temperatures so astronomers can study distant galaxies, young stars and planetary systems at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths.

"The completion of the preliminary design review allows the detailed engineering design to move forward and maintains the delivery schedule for the Observatory," said Martin Mohan, Northrop Grumman JWST program manager.

Completion of the preliminary sunshield design is the latest in a series of significant accomplishments. One year ago, the Northrop Grumman engineers developing sunshield membrane materials demonstrated Technology Readiness Level 6, the NASA benchmark that signifies the sunshield prototype material had been successfully tested in a relevant environment (simulating space).

Northrop Grumman Space Technology sector is prime contractor for the Webb Telescope, leading the design and development effort under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $32 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:  Richard Bent
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology