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Government Accepts $25 Million Settlement Over Hubble Defect

October 5, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government is getting back some of the money it is spending to repair the nearsighted Hubble Space Telescope.

The Justice Department announced Monday that it had reached a $25 million settlement with the Perkin-Elmer Corporation and its new owner, Hughes Danbury Optical Systems, a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft Company.

The $2 billion telescope was launched in April 1990. Two months later, scientists discovered that the primary mirror was incorrectly formed, making it too flat near the edge by 1/50th the width of a human hair. The defect renders the telescope unable to see faint objects and pick out individual stars in densely packed star clusters.

Instead of a sharp point, starlight is seen in photographs as a fuzzy halo and computer wizardry is needed to compensate.

NASA plans a repair mission in late November or early December to correct that and other problems.

New optics will be installed to correct the spherical aberration at a cost of about $86 million. Other repairs, including replacement of jittery solar panels, will bring the cost to $250 million - in addition to the $380 million cost of flying the shuttle.

Hughes agreed to the settlement, a company statement said, ″to avoid the time, expense and business disruption of a potential Hubble-related lawsuit.″ Hughes will forgo fees on the engineering support it still supplies to the telescope and will reduce its fees on future Hubble contract work.

″From our viewpoint, we hope this closes the chapter on the misshapen mirror so we can concentrate on what’s ahead,″ said a spokesman, Thomas Arconti, at the Hughes Danbury plant.

Perkin-Elmer made the mirror in 1980-1981 and delivered it to NASA in 1984. Hughes acquired the Perkin-Elmer division in December 1989, before the telescope was launched and six months before the flaw was discovered.

The agreement includes $15 million in cash, $3.5 million in waived fees the government had owed and $6.5 million in refunds for continuing work on the orbiting telescope.

The government contended that the manufacturers knew or should have known there was a defect in the main mirror.

In the repair mission, which includes a record five spacewalks, astronauts will replace the main camera, install the corrective optics package, replace the solar arrays and replace two or three sets of gyroscopes, some of which have failed.

Under Monday’s settlement, neither Perkin-Elmer nor Hughes admitted liability for any defect.

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