updated 10/12/2010 2:45:20 AM ET 2010-10-12T06:45:20

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 11, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Four Secondary Mirror Support Structure (SMSS) struts for the James Webb Space Telescope's (JWST) pathfinder were delivered in late August to Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) by teammate Alliant Techsystems (ATK). Northrop Grumman is leading the design and development effort for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"Fabricating hardware that will perform perfectly in extreme temperatures is a considerable challenge," said Patty May, ATK's deputy JWST program manager. "We are proud to contribute our expertise in composite structural assemblies to help bring about the future discoveries of the James Webb Space Telescope."

Each of the four 24 foot-long struts weighs only 27 pounds. They were designed, engineered, fabricated and tested at ATK facilities in Magna, Utah as part of ATK's partnership with Northrop Grumman.

"This key hardware is critical to our test and verification program," said Scott Willoughby, JWST program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. "ATK's expertise in meeting rigorous specifications and delivering on schedule is an important contribution to the success of the mission."

The pathfinder is a high fidelity model of the Optical Telescope Element (OTE), which is the eye of the Observatory. The pathfinder is a full-size structure with a subset of two primary mirror segment assemblies, the secondary mirror and aft optics subsystem. It consists of 12 of the 18 hexagonal cells (the center section) of the telescope and is a duplicate of the flight backplane, made of the same material with the same tolerances.

The pathfinder supports a variety of engineering model and flight optics and will demonstrate integration and alignment techniques, be subjected to optical performance measurement at cryogenic temperatures and will verify all ground system equipment and test procedures.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, Webb will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies ever formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company with more than 18,000 employees in 24 states, Puerto Rico and internationally, and revenues of approximately $4.8 billion. News and information can be found at www.atk.com .

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 www.northropgrumman.com for more information.

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