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  • Ball Aerospace Instruments to Accompany SIRTF
Apr 2003
BOULDER, Colo., April 9 -- A Ball Aerospace cryogenic telescope assembly and two Ball-built science instruments will be on board the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), which is set to launch April 18 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. SIRTF is the fourth and final mission in NASA's Great Observatories series.

SIRTF will observe objects from the outer solar system to the most luminous known galaxies in the farthest reaches of space. By studying the infrared thermal energy emitted by distant objects in the universe, astronomers will gain knowledge of the formation and evolution of the universe, NASA said.

The cryogenic telescope assembly system (CTA), built by Ball Aerospace under contract to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, provides the low temperature of 1.4 K above absolute zero required for sensitive observations.

Ball Aerospace also built SIRTF's infrared spectrograph (IRS), under contract to Cornell University, and the multiband imaging photometer (MIP), under contract to the University of Arizona. The IRS breaks lights into its various wavelengths, much like a prism, to help astronomers study the composition of cosmic objects. The MIP is a far-infrared instrument capable of imaging photometry, high-resolution imaging and scan mapping.

Ball Aerospace was also a partner on the previous three Great Observatories: the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. SIRTF will further discoveries initiated by those projects and will help prepare the scientific framework for future missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope, for which Ball Aerospace is the principal subcontractor to develop the telescope optical system.

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