Additional details about the pair of spy telescopes NASA acquired from the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) were released the week of June 11 via NASA’s Freedom of Information Act Office in Washington.

The details were included in a five-page document called a Response to Query that NASA public affairs officials use to answer questions from media.

The document provides a fuller description of the hardware that contractor ITT Exelis has been storing for the NRO at the company’s Rochester, N.Y., facility.

“The equipment consists of elements that with some work could make two telescopes with support structure and a protective light baffler and other miscellaneous spares along with the associated documentation,” the Response to Query states. “Technologies include Exelis lightweight mirror, advanced structure, patented hybrid laminate technologies and the Hexel/Exelis co-developed cyanate siloxane low moisture resin technology.”

While the NRO estimates the cost of the hardware at $275 million, the transferred equipment “has a book value of around $75 million.”

Other technical details include:

  • A 2.4 meter primary mirror, f/8 with less than 20 percent obstructed aperture.
  • A 1.6 arc minute field of view.
  • A wavefront quality of less than 60 nanometers, root mean squared.
  • A stable, f/1.2 lightweight ultra-low-frequency primary mirror.
  • Stable, low CTE composite and invar structures.
  • Actuated secondary mirror positioning.

The document says there are two flight units available with limited parts for a third. The flight units weigh 1,700 kilograms, including the telescope and outer thermal barrel.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is managing ownership of the equipment, according to the NASA document.



Donated Space Telescopes are Remnants of Failed NRO Program