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NASA's Newest Solar Mission Spacecraft Ready For Launch

           NASA's Newest Solar Mission Spacecraft Ready For Launch

PR Newswire

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 17, 2013

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Interface Region Imaging
Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft is on track for a launch from Vandenberg Air
Force Base in California on June 26.  IRIS will fill a crucial gap in the
ability of scientists to advance Sun-Earth connection studies by tracing the
flow of energy and plasma through a dynamic interface region – the
chromosphere and transition region – between the solar surface and the solar
corona.

"The entire IRIS team is enormously pleased that we've reached this crucial
milestone," said Gary Kushner, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) IRIS program
manager. "After many months of hard work by the Lockheed Martin team and all
of our collaborators and subcontractors in designing, engineering, building
and testing the instrument and integrated spacecraft, our goal of putting IRIS
into orbit is in sight and we look forward to producing great science at a low
cost."

The goal of the IRIS program is to better understand how energy and plasma
move from a lower layer of the sun's surface called the photosphere, through
the chromosphere layer and to the outer corona layer. Observation into this
movement has been a fundamental challenge in Solar and Heliospheric science,
and the IRIS mission will open a window of discovery into this crucial region
by providing observations necessary to pinpoint physical forces at work in
this little understood piece of real estate near the surface of the sun.

"The interpretation of the IRIS spectra is a major effort coordinated by the
IRIS Science Team that will utilize the full extent of the power of the most
advanced computational resources in the world. It is this new capability,
along with development of state of the art codes and numerical models by the
University of Oslo, that capture the complexities of this region, which make
the IRIS mission possible. Without these important elements we would be unable
to fully interpret the IRIS spectra," said Dr. Alan Title, IRIS principal
investigator and physicist at the ATC Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in
Palo Alto. "With IRIS, we have a unique opportunity to provide significant
missing pieces in our understanding of energy transport on the sun. The
complex processes and enormous contrasts of density, temperature and magnetic
field within this interface region require instrument and modeling
capabilities that are now finally within our reach."

The IRIS observatory will fly in a sun-synchronous polar orbit for continuous
solar observations on a two-year mission. It will obtain ultraviolet spectra
and high-resolution images focused on the chromosphere and the transition
region to the outer corona. Spectra will cover temperatures from 4,500 K to
10^7 K, with images covering temperatures from 4,500 to 65,000 K.

NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. is responsible for
mission operations and the ground data system. The Norwegian Space Centre and
NASA's Near Earth Network will provide the ground stations to support the IRIS
mission using antennas at Svalbard, Norway, Fairbanks, Alaska, McMurdo,
Antarctica and Wallops Island, Va. The science data will be managed by the
Joint Science Operations Center of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, run by
Stanford and Lockheed Martin. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Md., manages the Explorers Program. NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy
Space Center, Fla., is responsible for launch management.

Part of NASA's Small Explorers, which deliver space exploration missions
costing less than $120 million, IRIS was designed and built at Lockheed Martin
Space Systems Company Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto, Calif.
The program was developed with support from Lockheed Martin's Civil Space line
of business as well as partners Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Montana
State University, Stanford University and the University of Oslo.

Over the years, NASA's Explorers Program has launched a number of Explorer
spacecraft carrying a wide variety of scientific investigations. It provides
access to space using one of several, lower-cost expendable launch vehicles
available through NASA's launch services program.

The ATC is the research and development organization of Lockheed Martin Space
Systems Company (LMSSC) and creates the technology foundation for the
company's business. In addition, the ATC conducts research into understanding
and predicting space weather and the behavior of our Sun, including its
impacts on Earth and climate. It has a five-decade-long heritage of spaceborne
instruments.

LMSSC, a major operating unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation, designs and
develops, tests, manufactures and operates a full spectrum of
advanced-technology systems for national security and military, civil
government and commercial customers. Chief products include human space flight
systems; a full range of remote sensing, navigation, meteorological and
communications satellites and instruments; space observatories and
interplanetary spacecraft; laser radar; ballistic missiles; missile defense
systems; and nanotechnology research and development.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and
aerospace company that employs about 118,000 people worldwide and is
principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture,
integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and
services. The Corporation's net sales for 2012 were $47.2 billion.

Media Contact: Buddy Nelson, (510) 797-0349; e-mail, buddy.nelson@lmco.com

SOURCE Lockheed Martin

Website: http://www.lockheedmartin.com
 
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