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IR Telescope Facility Readied for Launch

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SUNNYVALE, Calif., March 10 -- NASA's Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) has completed integration, testing and prelaunch checkout at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale and has been delivered to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida for an April launch. SIRTF's Cryogenic Telescope Assembly, which includes the scientific instruments, was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo., and was delivered to Space Systems in Sunnyvale in February and integrated with the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft.
SIRTF is a cryogenically cooled space observatory that will conduct infrared (IR) astronomy during a 2 1/2-year mission beginning in 2003. SIRTF is one of NASA's Great Observatories that also includes the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. The SIRTF program, a cornerstone of NASA's Origins Program, is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. for NASA's Office of Space Science in Washington DC.

The spaceborne SIRTF observatory comprises a 0.85-meter diameter telescope and three scientific instruments capable of performing imaging and spectroscopy in the 3-180 micron wavelength regime. Incorporating the latest in large-format infrared detector array technology, SIRTF will provide more than a 100-fold increased in scientific capability over previous IR missions, Lockheed Martin said. Cornell University, University of Arizona and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have provided the instruments for SIRTF.

A one meter-diameter transmitting antenna fixed to the bottom of the spacecraft will be used twice each day to transmit 12 hours of stored science data to stations of NASA's Deep Space Network. In this manner, an adequate average data rate of 85 kbps-- corresponding to one image from SIRTF's largest array every 10 seconds -- can be maintained over the lifetime of the mission.

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Mar 2003
The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
astronomyBasic ScienceNews & FeaturesSensors & Detectors

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