Boulder-based Ball Aerospace will play a role in building NASA‘s next-generation space telescope.
The company has been awarded a contract worth about $113.2 million to build primary instrument components for NASA‘s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).
“It‘s going to be getting the biggest pictures of the universe we‘ve ever had,” said Claire Saravia with the communication‘s office at NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
The new telescope, expected to be ready for launch by the mid-2020s at a cost of total of roughly $3.2 billion, is being touted by NASA as the Hubble Space Telescope‘s “wide-eyed cousin.”
In a statement on , WFIRST science working group cochairman David Spergel said, “A picture from Hubble is a nice poster on the wall, while a WFIRST image will cover the entire wall of your house.”
Technology from Ball will help capture those pictures.
The company will “design, analyze, develop, fabricate, integrate, test and evaluate the Wide Field Instrument Opto-Mechanical Assembly for the WFIRST mission,” according to a NASA news release.
The instrument will have the ability to capture 300-megapixel images 100 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope with the same level of detail and clarity.
The mission of the telescope — expected to be in orbit for about six years — is, in part, to try to answer some fundamental questions about the nature of the universe.
“To understand how the universe evolved from a hot, uniform gas into stars, planets, and people, we need to study the beginnings of that process by looking at the early days of the universe,” WFIRST Project Scientist Jeffrey Kruk said in a statement. “We‘ve learned much from other wide-area surveys, but WFIRST‘s will be the most sensitive and give us our farthest look back in time.”
Specifically, NASA scientists hope to use WFIRST to help provide insight into why the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating. The telescope is also expected to survey 100 million stars and could discover thousands of new planets, according to the space agency website.
The WFIRST program isn‘t the only recent collaboration between Ball Aerospace and NASA.
Last month, the company announced it of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s advanced next-generation polar-orbiting weather satellite.
That project, called the Joint Polar Satellite System, “is the most advanced operational environmental system ever developed by government and industry, and significantly increases the timeliness and accuracy of forecasts three to seven days in advance of severe weather events,” according to an April news release from Ball.