NASA has awarded a subcontract to Northrop Grumman Space Technology in Redondo Beach, Calif., to develop an ultra-cold mechanical helium cryocooler for the Mid-Infrared Instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope.  The contract totals about $22 million.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is the U.S. partner in developing the instrument, along with a European consortium sponsored by the European Space Agency.  With a planned 2013 launch, the Webb Space Telescope will study the earliest galaxies and some of the first stars formed after the Big Bang. The cryocooler delivery date is 2010.  

The Mid-Infrared Instrument must be cooled to 6 Kelvin (minus 449 degrees Fahrenheit), much colder than the planned 40 Kelvin (minus 388 Fahrenheit) temperature of the Webb Space Telescope. This will allow the instrument to detect room temperature heat emitted by stars, galaxies and other objects.

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages the James Webb Space Telescope for NASA. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about the James Webb Space Telescope, visit .  More information about NASA and agency missions is at .