Lockheed Martin Team Proposes Innovative Low-Risk Design for NASA's Next Generation Space Telescope
SUNNYVALE, CA, 10-OCT-01 -- A team led by Lockheed Martin Space Systems has submitted a proposal to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) for the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), a key mission in NASA's Origins Program. The new space observatory, targeted for launch in 2009, will help NASA observe the first stars and galaxies formed in the Universe. The Lockheed Martin team, which includes Goodrich, Jackson and Tull Engineers and the University of Arizona, has delivered innovative technical and management approaches to NASA for NGST. The team's design for the observatory includes a lightweight 6-meter-class deployable mirror.
Our fundamental objective in this proposal has been to define an overall NGST architecture that exhibits sufficient performance, cost and schedule credibility to justify proceeding with the formulation and implementation effort. We believe we've succeeded in that goal, said Jeff Harris, president, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Missiles & Space Operations. Our long heritage of building and integrating space observatories, combined with this team's extensive experience with highly advanced optical systems will serve us well in moving this very important mission from drawing board to orbit. In addition, our commitment to management innovation and process improvement will help to chart a successful and low-risk course for NGST in a life-cycle cost-constrained environment.
The NGST will be a space observatory optimized for infrared imaging and spectroscopy of astronomical targets. It will be launched to a location about a million miles from Earth opposite the Sun where it will conduct its observations in the cold of deep space. To accomplish the ambitious science goals outlined for it, the NGST will be equipped with extremely sensitive infrared detectors.
Its large aperture and IR detectors will allow NGST to see much farther back in time. Objects 400 times fainter than those currently studied with large ground-based infrared telescopes or the current generation of space-based infrared telescopes will be observable. NGST will do this while equaling or surpassing the spatial resolution (image sharpness) of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Astronomers have a fairly good understanding of what the Universe is like today and in the past to when the universe was between 10-12 billion years old, based on observations at all wavelengths. They are also fairly confident of what the universe was like when it was quite young (less than about 1 million years old) based upon observation of the cosmic microwave background and an understanding of high-energy particle physics. The middle ground however, between 1 million and a few billion years old, is completely unobserved. It is during that time period that the first structures seen today, namely stars and galaxies, began to form.
The powerful capabilities of NGST will allow astronomers to focus on that important time period and begin to fashion answers to some fundamental questions:
What is the shape of the universe?
How do galaxies evolve?
How do stars and planetary systems form and interact?
What are the life cycles of matter in the universe?
What is dark matter?
The NGST is a NASA-led project being undertaken by an international team comprising government, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, industry and academia. The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the project. Principal Investigators under contract to NASA and ESA will develop scientific instruments for the observatory. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. will be responsible for the ground system, observatory operations, and science program management.
NASA's Origins Program follows the chain of events that began with the birth of the Universe at the Big Bang. It seeks to understand the entire process of cosmic evolution from the formation of chemical elements, galaxies, stars and planets, through the mixing of chemicals and energy that cradles life on Earth, to the earliest self-replicating organisms and the profusion of life. In short, Origins hopes to answer the fundamental question: Are we alone in the Universe?
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, headquartered in Denver, Colo., is one of the major operating units of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Space Systems designs, develops, tests, manufactures and operates a variety of advanced technology systems for civil, military and commercial customers. Chief products include a full-range of space launch systems, including heavy-lift capability, ground systems, remote sensing and communications satellites for commercial and government customers, advanced space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft, fleet ballistic missiles and missile defense systems. The NGST project is led by its Missiles & Space Operations arm headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA with project management centered in Greenbelt, MD.