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The WFIRST Telescope Sought By NASA – And With Vital Parts To Be Built By Harris Corp. In Rochester – Is Designed To View An Area Of Space 100x Larger Than The Hubble Telescope

Schumer Calls On Congress To Fully Fund WFIRST Telescope Mission In FY19; Says Funding Will Maintain 160 Rochester Harris Corp. Jobs & Help Build NASA’s Next Flagship Telescope

Schumer To Congress: Pass Critical Funding & Prep WFIRST Telescope For Liftoff

Standing at Harris Corporation in Rochester, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a major push to secure federal funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) next Flagship space telescope, Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which is being constructed largely by the Rochester Harris Corporation workforce. Specifically, Schumer called on his colleagues in Congress to reject the administration’s proposed plan earlier this year to abandon funding for NASA’s WFIRST mission and instead keep WFIRST on course for its planned mid-2020s launch date by including full funding for the project in the final, conferenced Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill. Schumer explained that this funding would not only allow Harris Corp.’s Rochester workforce to continue to help build NASA’s next Flagship space telescope, but also support and safeguard 160 good-paying jobs in Rochester. Schumer explained that, once complete, the WFIRST Telescope will be able to see an area of space 100 times bigger than the Hubble Telescope, and thus revolutionize the way that NASA looks at outer space, and urged his colleagues in Congress to ensure that the project is fully funded through the FY19 CJS Appropriations bill.

“The WFIRST Telescope, being built as we speak by Harris Corp.’s world-class Rochester workforce, will revolutionize the way that we are able to look at dark matter, exoplanets and the entire universe. Yet, because OMB has proposed pulling funding for WFIRST, this project and the 160 Rochester jobs it supports are in danger of crash landing. While we in Congress are pushing to stop those cuts dead in their tracks, there is still more work to be done,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m urging my colleagues in Congress to pass full funding for the WFIRST Telescope project in the final, conferenced Fiscal Year 2019 CJS Appropriations bill, which will both help build NASA’s next Flagship telescope, maintain its mid-2020s launch date, and support 160 good-paying Rochester jobs. Let’s pass this funding ASAP and prep WFIRST for liftoff.”

Schumer also announced that, following his push, Harris Corp. is creating 50 new contract radio manufacturing jobs in Rochester as a result of the company receiving several military contracts to produce various tactical radios. Plus, Harris is also recruiting for 140 direct hire positions in Rochester. This includes new college graduates, software, electrical and systems engineers, technicians and administrative positions. Additionally, Schumer announced that Harris Corp. will be investing $90 million in their Rochester facilities this fiscal year for Research & Development. Schumer explained that this funding will also be used to support new jobs and products, as well as local vendor supply chain companies. Schumer applauded Harris Corp.’s commitment to Rochester and for proving time and time again that they produce a superior product for the United States government.

Schumer continued, “Harris Corp. has shown an unyielding dedication to its home community, Rochester, and to growing the regional economy. Harris Corp.’s Rochester workforce has proven time and time again that they develop and manufacture a superior product, and I look forward to continue working hand-in-hand with Harris for the betterment of our scientific community, the US military and Upstate New York.”

Schumer explained that earlier this year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) put forth a proposal to cut all FY19 funding for the WFIRST Telescope project. However, Schumer successfully pushed his colleagues in the Senate to include $352 million in NASA funding for the WFIRST Telescope in their version of the FY19 CJS Appropriations bill. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives included $150 for the WFIRST Telescope in their CJS Appropriations bill. Schumer today urged his colleagues in Congress to ensure that the final, conferenced FY19 CJS Appropriations bill reflects the higher Senate funding level to create the first-of-its-kind space telescope using the world-class Rochester Harris Corp. workforce.

Schumer explained that the WFIRST Telescope is designed to see things that cannot be seen using current technology to solve two of the great riddles of the universe:

  1. What is dark energy and what are its implications for the universe? Since dark energy was discovered in 1998, science has sought to understand it and the mystery of how it is causing the Universe to expand.
  2. Are there any signs of alien life on exoplanets across the universe? WFIRST will be uniquely built to be an exoplanet hunter to find and survey now unknown worlds that might support life.

Schumer detailed that WFIRST could have the ability to answer these questions for a couple of reasons. First of all, WFIRST will be exceptionally powerful, in that it will have the same image precision as the Hubble Space Telescope, but will be able to see an area of space 100 times larger than Hubble can see. The Hubble Telescope is limited and can only view a small section of space at a time. Until now, if scientists wanted to view a larger area of space, they would have to use a telescope with less power that would show less detail – WFIRST will be the first telescope that can do both. WFIRST will also be able to observe a wide swath of the universe and find and measure exploding stars (supernovas) to study dark energy and help solve the mystery of how it is causing the Universe to expand. Additionally, WFIRST will be able to find new worlds that could contain life by hunting down and discovering now undetectable exoplanets. Utilizing microlensing techniques and the coronagraph, WFIRST will find and directly image exoplanets orbiting other stars by precisely blocking the light of the star. Nearly 1000 exoplanets have been discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, many with unexpected physical properties and orbital structures radically different than our own solar system. But Kepler has identified thousands of candidates that await confirmation, requiring a mission like WFIRST. WFIRST is needed to expand the catalog of known exoplanets, and thus provide a comprehensive view of the formation, evolution, and physical properties of planetary systems.

Schumer explained that WFIRST is NASA’s next Flagship space program that follows the Hubble and James Webb Flagship telescope missions. Since 1996, NASA has relied on the National Academy of Science and its membership of astronomy experts to identify research priorities and make recommendations to NASA about what priority space projects it should fund in the coming decade. Schumer said that Hubble and James Webb were both recommended by the National Academy of Science and that in 2010, the organization ranked WFIRST as its highest scientific priority astrophysics mission. Schumer said that this recommendation should prove to his colleagues in Congress the critical importance of fully funding the WFIRST Telescope project.

Schumer said that in 2016, NASA initiated the WFIRST Telescope design, which uses a 2.4-meter telescope form developed by Harris Corp. in Rochester. NASA’s goal is to launch the telescope in the upcoming 2020’s. NASA expects the entire project to cost around $3 billion and be completed over the course of the next few years. In FY18, Schumer fought to secure $150 million to keep the WFIRST Telescope project on track. Due to this funding, in May of this year, WFIRST passed a key project milestone, clearing it to enter its preliminary design phase and begin major procurements for flight hardware.

Schumer explained that Harris Corp.’s top-notch Rochester workforce will create and build several of WFIRST’ key components including the Telescope and the Three Channel Aft Optics Assembly. Schumer said that 160 Rochester Harris Corp. jobs are tied to the WFIRST project and that they rely on the mission progressing. Schumer said for all these reasons, Congress should do everything possible to fully fund the WFIRST Telescope project.

 “NASA’s WFIRST program presents another opportunity for Harris to demonstrate our decades of successful achievement with space missions,” said Joe Westbay, vice president and general manager, Government Systems and Civil/Commercial Imaging, Harris Space and Intelligence Systems. “Our heritage with NASA spans 60 years, and we look forward to continuing this legacy in the future.”

Schumer also announced that Harris Corp. would be adding 50 new manufacturing jobs at its Rochester facilities due to the company securing multiple contracts to produce tactical radios for the military. On September 24 of this year, Schumer announced that Harris Corp. won an Army contract worth up to $3.9 billion to produce the Army’s new 2-channel Leader Radio. Harris Corp. will hold a job fair on December 1st, 2018 from 10 AM to 12 PM at their facility in Henrietta to start the hiring of these contract technician positions. Harris is also recruiting for 140 direct hire positions in Rochester. This includes new college graduates, software, electrical and systems engineers, technicians and administrative positions. Harris has filled nearly 50 new positions since July 1, 2018.

“Our success in Rochester, and throughout Harris, is driven by our investment in technology and talent,” said William M. Brown, Harris Corporation’s chairman, president and CEO. “Senator Schumer helps make that investment possible. He supports equipping the U.S. military with our technology, advocates for companies like Harris to compete in the marketplace, and fights to keep and add jobs in Rochester. We greatly appreciate his continued support.”

Next, Schumer announced that Harris Corp. will be investing $90 million in Rochester for R&D. Specifically, Schumer explained that this critical investment will help support and generate new high-paying jobs at Harris’ Rochester facilities as well as the company’s innovation and leadership in the region. The R&D funding will be used on tactical radios, space optics, reflectors, and space-based radios. Schumer explained that the investment will also bolster Harris Corp.’s relationships with partners across New York State, including the Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, Clarkson University and the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute.

Schumer was joined by Harris Corporation’s Dana Mehnert, President, Communications Systems, Joe Westbay, Vice President and General Manager, Government Systems and Commercial/Civil Imaging, and members of Harris’ Rochester workforce.