updated 4/13/2011 3:17:02 PM ET 2011-04-13T19:17:02

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., April 13, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- With polishing, coating and cryotesting completed and its actuators and delta frame attached, the first fully manufactured and tested primary mirror segment of the James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) is leading the design and development effort for the Goddard Center.

"Finishing this primary mirror segment assembly is a major move forward for the program. It verifies the effectiveness of our manufacturing process and paves the way for completion of the 18 flight segments, which are closely following this development unit," said Scott Willoughby, Webb telescope program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector.

The hexagonal mirror is an engineering development unit, a manufacturing and testing pathfinder used to pioneer the complex mirror fabrication and polishing process that has been underway for the last seven years. There are three different optical prescriptions for the 18 mirror segments -- six flight and one spare for each prescription.

The delivered segment is the first of the "A" prescription segments for which a total of seven will be made - six flight and one spare. This unit is the flight spare.

Each Primary Mirror Segment Assembly consists of six actuators around the edge of the mirror and one actuator in the center which adjusts radius of curvature. The actuators and associated electronics are mounted on a lightweight beryllium plate called a delta frame, which attaches to the backplane, the support structure for all the mirror segment assemblies.

The observatory's large, segmented primary mirror will deploy on orbit, unfolding to approximately 6.5 meters in diameter (21.3 feet). Made of beryllium and coated with a microscopically thin coat of gold to reflect infrared light more effectively, each of the 18 segments is individually controlled and aligned.

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 study planets around distant stars. The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 75,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit www.northropgrumman.com for more information.

CONTACT: Mary Blake
         (310) 812-6291 office
         (424) 254-6170 mobile
         mary.blake@ngc.com

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