NASA has extended its contract with the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. to August 2003
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 is an 11-month period of performance extension
to the Chandra X-ray Center contract, with an estimated value
of $50.75 million. Total contract value is now $298.2
million. The contract extension resulted from the delay of
the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory from August 1998
to July 1999. The revised period of performance will continue
the contract through Aug. 31, 2003, which is 48 months beyond
operational checkout of the observatory. The contract type is
cost reimbursement with no fee.

The contract covers mission operations and data analysis,
which includes both the observatory operations and the
science data processing and general observer (astronomer)

The observatory operations tasks include monitoring the
health and status of the observatory and developing and
distributing by satellite 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 the processing and delivery of
the resulting scientific data. Each year, there are on the
order of 200 to 250 observing proposals selected out of about
800 submitted, with a total amount of observing time about 20
million seconds.

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
in Washington. The development contractor for the spacecraft
was TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif. The Smithsonian’s
Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations
from Cambridge.

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