The James Webb Space Telescope industry team, led by Northrop Grumman, has won the prestigious National Aeronautic Association Robert J. Collier Trophy for revolutionizing the field of astrophysics with the team’s pioneering design and exceptional performance of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
The Collier Trophy is the highest achievement in aerospace and astronautics in America. Previous winners include Howard Hughes, Gen. Hap Arnold, the Mercury Seven, Clarence “Kelly” Johnson of the Skunk Works, Curtis LeMay, the Apollo 11 crew, and Dick Rutan, among many others. The Collier trophy dates back to 1911.
Webb is the world’s first space deployable telescope and includes 10 new technologies, and Northrop Grumman led the design, build, total system integration and prepared the observatory for launch.
“The James Webb Space Telescope is one of the greatest achievements in aerospace history. In a matter of months, Webb has changed our understanding of the universe, and many more discoveries lie ahead,” said Kathy Warden, chair and CEO of Northrop Grumman. “We dedicate the Collier Trophy to the Northrop Grumman employees and our industry partners who delivered humanity an extraordinary observatory to explore the universe and inspire future generations.”
The Collier Trophy will be presented at the NAA Gala in Washington, D.C., on June 15.
“Our team’s unmatched ability to innovate enables us to push the boundaries of possible every day,” said Tom Wilson corporate VP and president, Northrop Grumman Space Systems Sector. “This distinct honor reflects the impact of our work and the pioneering spirit, dedication and passion of our entire Northrop Grumman team.”
The Collier Trophy recognizes the Webb team for activities in 2022, where over the course of two weeks after its historic launch, Webb flawlessly unfolded its sunshield and mirrors during a series of complex deployments and maneuvers, the first of its kind ever attempted in space. After achieving its final configuration, the team made a series of adjustments to bring the telescope’s optical train into precise alignment. The team then tested Webb’s state-of-the-art scientific instruments and brought them to operational temperature, all necessary to begin Webb’s science mission.
To enable the observatory’s ambitious scientific mission, Webb incorporates innovative design, advanced technology, and groundbreaking engineering. Ten technological inventions were created to build the advanced telescope including revolutionary optics, detectors, thermal control systems, a deployable sunshield, cryocooler technologies and the manufacturing of a lightweight composite backplane to carry the weight of Webb’s mirror, telescope optics and scientific instruments.
Key suppliers for the Webb team include Ball Aerospace, L3Harris, NeXolve and Raytheon.
The Robert J. Collier Trophy is an annual aviation award administered by the U.S. National Aeronautic Association, presented to those who have made “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.”
Robert J. Collier, publisher of Collier’s Weekly magazine, was an air sports pioneer and president of the Aero Club of America. In 1910, he commissioned Baltimore sculptor Ernest Wise Keyser to make the 525-pound Aero Club of America Trophy. First awarded in 1911 to Glenn H. Curtiss for his successful development of the hydro-aeroplane. Collier owned a Wright Model B biplane which he purchased in 1911. Collier presented his namesake trophy several times before his death in 1918; after his World War I service.
In 1922, when the Aero Club dissolved, the award was taken over by the National Aeronautic Association and it was unofficially renamed the Robert J. Collier Trophy, which became official in 1944. The award is presented once a year by the NAA president, with the trophy on permanent display at the U.S. National Air and Space Museum. As such, the trophy was in the custody of its 1969 co-recipient Michael Collins during his directorship of the museum.