AOX awarded WFIRST coronagraph contract from Jet Propulsion Laboratory

DEVENS, Mass. Adaptive Optics Associates (AOX) -- a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp. -- has been awarded a sole-source contract to provide mission-critical optical technology for the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) WFIRST coronagraph instrument. WFIRST is a planned infrared space observatory that will be equipped with a specialized optical-imaging coronagraph that will be able to directly image exoplanets over the course of its mission.

AOX is tasked with designing and fabricating the integrated adaptive optics system with ultrareliable, subangstrom precision motion. When complete, the hope is that the WFIRST coronagraph will provide a 1,000-fold improvement in existing technology to see distant planets in other solar systems.

The huge boost in imaging is aimed at helping the scientific community study of the atmospheres and conditions on exoplanets using WFIRST; it will also help during future space missions that will search for signs of life on exoplanets.