NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Wins Prestigious Collier Trophy

Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

April 05, 2023

NASA and the industry team behind the James Webb Space Telescope, led by Northrop Grumman Corporation, have been awarded the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) Robert J. Collier Trophy for revolutionizing astrophysics. The Collier Trophy is an annual award presented to recognize the greatest achievements in aerospace and astronautics in America. The award ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C., on June 15.

The James Webb Space Telescope is a remarkable scientific achievement that demonstrates NASA's ability to push the boundaries of space exploration, according to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. The team behind the project, which included over 20,000 people working on it for more than two decades, was responsible for discovering some of the earliest galaxies ever observed and providing a more detailed view of exoplanet atmospheres than ever before.

The NAA's recognition of the James Webb Space Telescope highlights its significant role in aerospace history. Established over a century ago, the award has previously honored Orville Wright, Chuck Yeager, and the crews of NASA's Apollo missions, among others.

Northrop Grumman was responsible for leading the design, build, and total system integration of the telescope, with other industry partners including Ball Aerospace, L3Harris, NeXolve, and Raytheon.

The Collier Trophy specifically acknowledges the Webb team's activities in 2022, when the telescope underwent a series of complex deployments and maneuvers after its launch. The team also made a series of adjustments to ensure the telescope's optics were in precise alignment before testing its scientific instruments.

The James Webb Space Telescope incorporates ten technological inventions, including advanced optics, detectors, thermal control systems, and a deployable sunshield. The telescope's manufacturing also involved creating a lightweight composite backplane to carry the weight of its mirror, telescope optics, and scientific instruments.

The award is the latest in a string of accolades received by NASA's Webb team, including recognition from Popular Science, the Project Management Institute, Bloomberg Businessweek's Bloomberg 50, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, the 2023 John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration, and Fast Company's Most Innovative List.