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Historical Remembrances of the Chandra X-ray Observatory: How Partnerships Created Success

Robert Burke, Northrop Grumman

As the astronomy community plans for new ventures in space, we’re forced to find creative solutions to operate within the ever increasing fiscal constraints of the current economic environment. The Chandra X-ray Observatory program offers an example of how missions can be successfully developed within manageable budget constraints. The ten year anniversary offers us the chance to look back at the Chandra team's special partnership between scientists, managers, and industry that led to our success.Chandra experienced many of the challenges common to major observatories: state-of-the-art technical requirements, budget-induced slips, and restructurings. Yet the Chandra team achieved excellent performance for dramatically lower cost. In fact, Chandra completed its prime mission for billions of dollars less than originally planned. In 1992, NASA MSFC and Northrop Grumman (then TRW) together led a major restructure that saved approximately $3.4B in program cost, while we improved the imaging capability and observing efficiency of Chandra. This was accomplished by a combination of team-work, systems engineering, advanced technology insertion, and effective approaches for program implementation, combined with a high performance culture that aligned goals and focused on mission success. Northrop Grumman is proud of our role in supporting the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and our academic partners in advancing the frontiers of x-ray astronomy and scientific discovery with Chandra. As Chandra continues its extended mission, the observatory continues to provide superb scientific performance.