Spaceflight Insider

NASA awards WFIRST contract to Ball Aerospace

The WFIRST spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center.

The WFIRST spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is starting to become a reality as NASA begins awarding contracts for the construction of key components. Ball Aerospace recently received one of these contracts for the projected $3.2-billion project.

NASA's WFIRST spacecraft photo credit Steve Hammer

Photo Credit: Steve Hammer / SpaceFlight Insider

Valued at $113.2 million, NASA said the cost-plus-award-fee contract to build the Wide Field Instrument (WFI) Opto-Mechanical Assembly runs from May 2018 to June 2026. Ball Aerospace is required to fulfill a number of milestones over the contract lifetime including design, analysis, development, fabrication, integration, and testing. Additionally the company is required to provide ongoing testing and post-equipment-delivery work.

“WFIRST was identified as a top priority of the most recent Decadal Survey in 2010 and Ball supports the decadal process, which builds a community consensus for science priorities,” Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager for Civil Space, Ball Aerospace, said in a press release. “The science WFIRST will provide is unprecedented as the wide-field imaging of distant galaxies will unlock the mysterious effects of dark energy, which may fundamentally change our understanding of physics.”

Set to launch sometime in the mid-2020s, the telescope is being designed to sport a 7.9-foot (2.4-meter) wide field-of-view mirror with two scientific instruments: The WFI, which is a 288-megapixel camera that can image 0.28 square degrees of the sky, and a coronagraph, which is a device designed to block direct starlight in order to detect exoplanets.

Once in space, the observatory will be positioned at the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point where it is designed to image portions of the sky 100 times the size of the Hubble Space Telescope’s field of view with the same precision and power of the legacy observatory. Scientists hope to survey large areas of the sky to measure the effects of dark matter on the distribution of galaxies in the universe, learn more about dark energy, and directly image ice and gas giant exoplanets, according to NASA.

For Fiscal Year 2018, WFIRST received full funding from the U.S. Congress. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, plans to continue development of the project at least until the 2019 appropriations have been determined.

Video courtesy of NASA Goddard



Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

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