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For Release: November 4, 1997
|NASA's Next Orbiting Observatory Clears Key Milestone|
NASA's most powerful X-ray observatory has passed a major development milestone with the completion of mating the telescope to the spacecraft on which it will orbit the Earth.
The two major elements of the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) were mated at TRW Space and Electronics Group in Redondo Beach, Calif. TRW is NASA's prime contractor for the program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. AXAF is scheduled for launch in August 1998 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on the STS-93 mission.
"This completes the mechanical aspect of the mating -- physically connecting the telescope to the spacecraft," said John Humphreys, project development manager for AXAF at Marshall.
The next step is testing. "First, a full set of functional checks will be made to see that everything is working," said Humphreys. "This testing includes the systems of the telescope and spacecraft, such as communications, electrical power and propulsion systems."
The integrated science instrument module, the other major component of the observatory, is completing environmental testing at Ball Aerospace Division in Boulder, Colo. It is scheduled to arrive at TRW in late-November for integration with the telescope and spacecraft. The module contains a High Resolution Camera instrument and an AXAF charged-coupled device (CCD) Imaging Spectrometer instrument.
AXAF is designed to provide images of highly energetic X-ray sources with at least 10 times better clarity than previous X-ray missions. After it becomes operational in orbit, AXAF will observe X-rays from hot, turbulent, high-energy objects in the universe, such as neutron stars, black holes, quasars, the centers of galaxies and galaxy clusters and the hot gas in the remnants of exploded stars. This increased clarity will help scientists answer fundamental questions about the origin, evolution and destiny of the universe.
Marshall manages the development of the AXAF mission for NASAs Office of Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Additional information on the AXAF mission and its science objectives can be found on the following URLs:
Note to Editors: Photos are available to support this release. Contact the Office of Media Services at Marshall Space Flight Center at (256) 544-6849 or (256) 544-0034.
Prepared by Joy Carter