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Caltech Borrows NASAs GALEX To Continue Study of Galaxies

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has signed a first-of-its-kind agreement to borrow NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and continue the satellite's mission using private university funds.

Caltech and NASA signed a Space Act Agreement on May 14, and soon Caltech will take over management of GALEX and continue using the satellite to study the universe with ultraviolet light.

Data collected from GALEX will continue to be made available to the public under Caltech's management. Caltech will use GALEX for studies such as:

  • Cataloguing more galaxies;
  • Observing how galaxies and stars change over time; and
  • Deep observations of stars being surveyed by NASA's Kepler mission.

NASA operated GALEX for nine years, but placed the satellite on standby mode on Feb. 7, 2012. During that time, GALEX catalogued hundreds of millions of galaxies in our universe--covering 10 billion years of cosmic time.

The agreement between Caltech and NASA expires in 2015 and can be renegotiated at that time. As part of the terms of the agreement, NASA maintains ownership and liability for GALEX. Also under the terms of the agreement, Caltech will decommission GALEX for NASA when Caltech has completed using the satellite for its UV exploration of space. GALEX's solar panels and batteries have a life expectancy of 12 years or longer. The satellite is expected to remain in orbit for at least 66 years, before burning up in Earth's atmosphere.

Caltech will have the Orbital Sciences Corporation, which built GALEX, continue to perform flight control functions for the satellite, and the Universal Space Network will continue to provide ground stations to communicate with GALEX.

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About the Author

Caitlin Moriarity is a freelance technology writer based in St. Louis, MO. She can be reached at [email protected].

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