Press Release

Northrop Grumman-Built Space Cryocoolers Achieve Reliability Milestone With More Than 100 Years of Excellent On-Orbit Performance

By SpaceRef Editor
September 27, 2010
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Cryocoolers built by Northrop Grumman Corporation for satellite applications have recently accumulated over 100 years of flawless on-orbit performance. The company’s long-life, pulse-tube cryocoolers are used to cool a wide variety of space-borne detectors used in missile warning, Earth and climate sciences, astronomy and cryogenic propellant management.

Using four sizes of non-wearing compressors and pulse tube cold heads that have no moving parts at cryogenic temperatures, the coolers are able to cover a wide range of temperatures, from 1.7K to 300K (-456 deg. to 80 deg. F), providing long life without performance degradation. Of the 16 cryocoolers currently on orbit, some have been operating as long as 12 years. With 20 years of experience developing cryocooler technology, Northrop Grumman has produced over 35 space-qualified cooler systems, more than the rest of U.S. industry combined.

“None of our coolers have ever failed or changed performance in orbit. This is a direct result of our space flight experience combined with the significant investment we have made developing this superior product,” said Mark Folkman, director of Products and Sensing for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. “We’ll continue to enable groundbreaking missions like the James Webb Space Telescope while further developing our cryocooler products to extend the range of mission capabilities.”

A four-stage hybrid cryocooler was developed to cool the Webb telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument to 6K (-449 deg. F.). The company is currently working to extend cooling capabilities beyond 6K down to 1.7K using flight-proven technology that can enable mission life greater than 10 years.

Northrop Grumman-built next generation pulse-tube cryocoolers are on orbit or are slated to fly on a wide range of satellites. Examples include:

— The Japanese Advanced Meteorological Imager (JAMI) on the Multi-functional Transport Satellite (MTSAT) features a pair of Northrop Grumman pulse tube cryocoolers. JAMI provides high quality multispectral imagery for weather forecasters in Japan, East Asia and Australia. JAMI/MTSAT was launched in early 2005.

— A high-reliability cryocooler built by Northrop Grumman was launched in 2009 aboard Japan’s Ibuki, also known as the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT), which monitors climate-related greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

— NASA’s next generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R), slated to launch in 2015, features Northrop Grumman cryocoolers for one of its primary sensors.

— Northrop Grumman has also built flight cryocoolers for the sensor payloads for two international geostationary weather satellites slated to launch in 2014 and 2016 that will provide round-the-clock weather forecasts and severe weather alerts. The cryocoolers will maintain the international satellites’ infrared detectors and optics at cryogenic temperatures for more than 8 years.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit for more information.

SpaceRef staff editor.