NASA has awarded a contract to the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to provide
science and operational support for the Chandra X-ray
Observatory, one of the world’s most powerful tools to
better understand the structure and evolution of the

The contract will have a period of performance from August
31, 2003, through July 31, 2010, with an estimated value of
$373 million. It is a follow-on contract to the existing
contract with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory that has
provided science and operations support to the Observatory
since its launch in July 1999. At launch the intended
mission life was five years.

As a result of Chandra’s success, NASA extended the mission
from five to 10 years. The value of the original contract
was $289 million. The follow-on contract with the
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory will continue through
the 10-year mission. The contract type is cost reimbursement
with no fee.

The contract covers mission operations and data analysis,
which includes the observatory operations, science data
processing and the general and guaranteed time observer
(astronomer) support. The observatory operations tasks
include monitoring the health and status of the observatory
and developing and up linking the observation sequences
during Chandra’s communication coverage periods.

The science data processing tasks include the competitive
selection, planning, and coordination of science
observations with the general observers and processing and
delivery of the resulting scientific data. There are
approximately 200 to 250 observing proposals selected
annually out of about 800 submitted, with a total amount of
observing time of about 20 million seconds.

Chandra has exceeded expectations of scientists, giving them
unique insight into phenomena light years away, such as
exotic celestial objects, matter falling into black holes,
and stellar explosions.

X-ray astronomy can only be performed from space because
Earth’s atmosphere blocks X-rays from reaching the surface.
The Chandra Observatory travels one-third of the way to the
moon during its orbit around the Earth every 64 hours. At
its highest point, Chandra’s highly elliptical, or egg-
shaped, orbit is 200 times higher than that of its visible-
light-gathering sister, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.,
manages the Chandra program for the Office of Space Science,
NASA Headquarters, Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo
Beach, Calif., formerly TRW, Inc., was the prime development
contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight
operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

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