RELEASE: 98-185

October 13, 1998


Donald Savage, Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1547)
Dave Drachlis, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL (Phone: 205/544-0034)

NASA announced today it will delay shipment of the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) from the prime contractor, TRW Space and Electronics Group, Redondo Beach, CA, to Kennedy Space Center, FL. The postponement, made following a review by NASA and TRW, will allow additional time for TRW to complete testing of the observatory and to replace an electrical switching box. AXAF had been scheduled for shipment later this month to meet a Jan. 21, 1999, launch date.

NASA also has directed a review of AXAF, by NASA Chief Engineer Dr. Daniel Mulville to be completed by mid-January 1999. A new shipment date and a new launch date will be confirmed after the review.

"We think it's prudent to wait to see what the review will tell us before we set shipment and launch dates, so we don't expect to ship AXAF before that. It was a difficult decision, but we evaluated a number of options for handling the remaining work, and selected the one that will give us the most assurance of successfully completing the work," said Kenneth Ledbetter, Director of the Mission and Payload Division of the Office of Space Science, NASA Headquarters.

The remaining testing includes trouble-shooting and de-bugging some elements of the ground test and flight software. In addition, testing will be done to verify changes made to the flight software.

"Our priority remains the safe and successful launch of a world-class observatory, which has been thoroughly tested and meets all requirements," said Fred Wojtalik, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Observatory Projects Office manager in Huntsville, AL. Marshall manages development of the observatory for the Office of Space Science.

Once in orbit, the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility will allow scientists from around the world to obtain unprecedented X-ray images of a variety of high-energy objects to help understand the structure and evolution of the universe. The observatory will not only help to probe these mysteries, but also will serve as a unique tool to study detailed physics in a laboratory that cannot be replicated here on Earth -- the universe itself. (NASA HQ Public Affairs Office)