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X-43A launch preview
NASA officials preview the third and final test launch of the X-43A hypersonic vehicle during this news conference from Dryden Flight Research Center. (29min 47sec file)
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Deep Impact arrives
NASA's Deep Impact comet spacecraft arrives at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near Kennedy Space Center to begin final launch preparations for blastoff December 30 aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket. (2min 53sec file)
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Veterans Day
Aboard the International Space Station, commander Leroy Chiao offers his thoughts in this downlinked message in honor of Veterans Day.
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Delta rocket lofts GPS
The Boeing Delta 2 rocket lifts off Saturday morning with the GPS 2R-13 satellite from pad 17B at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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Launch in full
This longer-length clip follows the Delta 2 rocket during its late-night ascent carrying the latest Global Positioning System satellite. (2min 25sec file)
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Delta scrub
A red alarm triggers Friday morning's countdown to launch of Boeing's Delta 2 rocket carrying a GPS satellite to be scrubbed at Cape Canaveral, Florida. (1min 52sec file)
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Swift preview
Mission scientists preview NASA's Swift gamma-ray burst detection satellite being readied for launch into Earth orbit. (39min 49sec file)
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Cassini science update
Radar imagery of Saturn's moon Titan and other new data from the Cassini spacecraft is presented during this JPL news conference on Thursday. (54min 48sec file)
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Post-flyby briefing
Scientists and mission officials discuss the initial pictures and data obtained during Cassini's flyby of Titan during this JPL news conference on Wednesday. (55min 18sec file)
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First pictures
The first pictures taken by Cassini during this close encounter with Titan are received at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the delight of the mission's imaging leader. (2min 21sec file)
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James Webb Telescope mirror building moves ahead
Posted: November 15, 2004

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) moved a major step forward with the opening of a state-of-the-art facility in Cullman, Ala., that will machine the observatory's optical components. Northrop Grumman Corporation is the prime contractor for JWST, leading the observatory's design and development team under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

An artist's concept shows the design for the James Webb Space Telescope (formerly the Next Generation Space telescope). Credit: NASA/Northrop Grumman
The new facility, owned by Northrop Grumman team member Axsys Technologies Inc., houses advanced computer-aided manufacturing and metrology equipment that will shape JWST's optical components to a high degree of accuracy. The components consist of 18 hexagonal beryllium segments for JWST's primary mirror, measuring 1.3 meters from tip to tip, and other mirror substrates and support structures.

Fabrication in the facility will begin later this month and will be completed in 2007.

"Axsys Technologies' new facility is critical to providing the lightweight beryllium mirrors that enable JWST's large aperture," said Martin Mohan, JWST program manager, Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "The start of machining the beryllium blanks marks another key milestone accomplished on schedule for the JWST team."

Manufacturing the observatory's mirror is a four-step process, which is being performed by a team led by Ball Aerospace. Brush Wellman compresses beryllium into large segments called "blanks;" Axsys Technologies machines the blanks; Tinsley Laboratories grinds and polishes the mirrors; and Ball incorporates the mirrors into optical assemblies and mounts them on the telescope structure. Manufacturing all 18 mirrors will take approximately four-and-a-half years.

At Axsys Technologies, machining and etching of the blank's backside will reduce the mirror mass by 92 percent, from 553 pounds (250 kilograms) to 46 pounds (21 kilograms); machining of the front side prepares the optical surface for subsequent grinding and polishing. Earlier this year, Axsys Technologies started machining an engineering development unit (mirror prototype) to demonstrate its capabilities.

The observatory features a 6.5-meter (20 feet) aperture primary mirror that will be the largest deployable telescope ever launched. Beryllium, one of the lightest of all metals, was selected as the mirror technology for its demonstrated track record operating at cryogenic temperatures (around 400 degrees Fahrenheit) on space-based telescopes.

JWST will peer into the infrared at great distances to search for answers to astronomers' fundamental questions about the birth and evolution of galaxies, the size and shape of the universe, and the mysterious life cycle of matter. A component of NASA's Origins Program, JWST will reside in an orbit 940,000 miles from Earth at the L2 Lagrange point after its launch in 2011.

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. civilian and military customers that contribute significantly to the nation's leadership in science and technology and security.