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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hubble Successor on Way

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration has announced that it will build the long-discussed Next Generation Space Telescope and has selected a design by TRW Inc. for a successor to Hubble to be launched in 2010.

The new observatory, while only half as big as the 10,900-kilogram Hubble, will have a primary, light-gathering mirror 6 meters in diameter compared with the existing telescope's 2.4-meter reflector.

The telescope should be able to detect objects a hundredth the brightness Hubble can see in visible light and one four-hundredths the brightness in the infrared part of the light spectrum.

NASA said last week that it would build an observatory that would look back into time and space for some of the first light produced in the universe.

Unlike Hubble, this telescope will be sent into orbit far from Earth and should be able to detect and analyze light produced when the first stars and galaxies formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical beginning of the universe some 14 billion years ago, scientists say.

Dr. Alan Dressler, an astronomer with the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena, California, who took part in studies of what should follow Hubble, said scientists wanted more than just a bigger space telescope.

"The Hubble Space Telescope raised the ante," Dressler said.

"The desire was to make a huge leap, to go for something bold that would really be a breakthrough."

TRW and its partners, including Bell Aerospace and Eastman Kodak, are to build, test and operate the new observatory for a year under an $824.8 million contract that does not include launching costs.

NASA officials said the ultimate cost of the observatory, planned to last at least five years and perhaps 10, could be about $1.2 billion.

The Hubble, by comparison, has cost more than $2 billion.