WASHINGTON — NASA has extended a contract with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to provide science and operational support for the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a powerful tool used to better understand the structure and evolution of the universe.

The contract extension with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory provides continued science and operations support to Chandra. This approximately $172 million modification brings the total value of the contract to approximately $545 million for the base effort. The base effort period of performance will continue through Sept. 30, 2013, except for the work associated with the administration of scientific research grants, which will extend through Feb. 28, 2016. The contract type is cost reimbursement with no fee.

In addition to the base effort, the contract includes two options for three years each to extend the period of performance for an additional six years. Option 1 is priced at approximately $177 million and Option 2 at approximately $191 million, for a total possible contract value of about $913 million.

The contract covers mission operations and data analysis, which includes observatory operations, science data processing and astronomer support. The operations tasks include monitoring the health and status of the observatory and developing and uplinking the observation sequences during Chandra’s communication coverage periods. The science data processing tasks include the competitive selection, planning and coordination of science observations and processing and delivery of the resulting scientific data.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala, manages the Chandra program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

For more information about NASA visit: http://www.nasa.gov

For more information about the Chandra X-ray Observatory visit: http://chandra.nasa.gov