Press Release

NASA’s Northrop Grumman-Built Chandra X-ray Observatory Celebrates Fifth Anniversary On-Orbit

By SpaceRef Editor
July 25, 2004
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Chandra X-ray Observatory, built by Northrop Grumman Corporation, celebrated its fifth year on-orbit today observing
X-rays in proto-stellar jets, gathering data on the nature
of cold fronts in galaxy clusters and performing other tasks.

Chandra has achieved numerous scientific firsts, contributed
to Nobel prize-winning science, and enhanced man’s understanding
of distant galaxies, planets, black holes and stars, and
other celestial phenomena. NASA extended Chandra’s mission
to 10 years from five as a result of these contributions,
doubling its opportunity to make new discoveries.

“We’re very proud to be celebrating the accomplishments
of this great observatory with our NASA customer and the
science community,” said Wes Bush, president, Northrop Grumman
Space Technology. “Chandra has expanded our understanding
of the universe. We are putting the experience gained on
Chandra to use building the James Webb Space Telescope and
a new generation of space science missions.”

Northrop Grumman’s Space Technology sector was selected
in 1988 by Marshall Space Flight Center as the prime contractor
to build Chandra, along with teammates Eastman Kodak and
Ball Aerospace. It is the third in NASA’s series of four
Great Observatories, which are space-borne observatories
designed to conduct astronomical studies over many different

A structurally advanced satellite, the Northrop Grumman
team developed innovative technical solutions when building
Chandra that have facilitated other endeavors, such as the
James Webb Space Telescope. These technical solutions include
precision alignment of large mirrors; precision integration
and test techniques; and techniques for precision structural

Extensive testing and pathfinders, or engineering models,
were used to validate the design and reduce the risk of
building this complex satellite.

Over the past five years, some of Chandra’s most notable
discoveries have been:

— A galaxy, NGC 6240, which was discovered to have two super
massive black holes orbiting each other in its nucleus;

— X-rays which gave astronomers a unique look at the sparse
upper atmosphere of Mars and provided evidence for a faint
halo of X-rays that extends 7,000 kilometers above the surface;

— The Black Widow pulsar, a neutron star that is destroying its
stellar companion.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology, based in Redondo Beach,
Calif., develops a broad range of systems at the leading
edge of space, defense and electronics technology. The sector
creates products for U.S. military and civilian customers
that contribute significantly to the nation’s security and
leadership in science and technology.

SpaceRef staff editor.