Harris awarded $195 million NASA contract

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

Harris Corp. has been awarded a $195 million contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to help build a flagship telescope. The project will support 160 Rochester-based jobs.

The announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer’s visit to Harris’ 575,000-square-foot Henrietta facility last month. Schumer was in town to drum up support for federal funding for NASA’s next space telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which is being constructed largely by Harris’ Rochester workforce.

Once complete, WFIRST will explore an area of space 100 times larger than the Hubble Telescope, and will significantly enhance the precision and clarity of NASA’s view into outer space.

“You don’t need a high-powered, infrared space telescope to see that this massive, $195 million investment means great jobs for Harris Corp. and Rochester,” Schumer said in a statement Wednesday. “With this critical contract secured, we are one step closer to propelling the revolutionary WFIRST Telescope to liftoff—something that will open up unknown corners of the universe to NASA and all humanity.”

A July 2016 photo of the WFIRST primary mirror assembly with forward-metering shell team. (Photo provided)
A July 2016 photo of the WFIRST primary mirror assembly with forward-metering shell team. (Photo provided)

The WFIRST Telescope is designed to help determine what dark energy is and what its implications for the universe are. And, Schumer said, WFIRST will be uniquely built to be an exoplanet hunter “to find and survey now unknown worlds that might support life.”

NASA in 2016 initiated the WFIRST Telescope design, which uses a 2.4-meter telescope form developed by Harris in Rochester. NASA’s goal is to launch the telescope in the 2020s. The entire project will cost roughly $3 billion and be completed in the next few years.

Earlier this year, the federal Office of Management and Budget proposed cutting all fiscal year 2019 funding for the WFIRST project. However, Schumer pushed his colleagues in the Senate to include $352 million in NASA funding for the telescope in their version of the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations bill.

“I’m going to fight like the dickens to make sure the full $352 million stays in the budget and is signed into law by the president,” Schumer said while visiting Rochester in November. “Given the huge amounts of money the federal government spends, this investment will have a huge bang for the buck.”

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