WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) -- NASA says it is lending a scientific satellite to the California Institute of Technology so the school can resume the spacecraft's mission with private funds.
For nine years the Galaxy Evolution Explorer surveyed the sky with ultraviolet eyes in a NASA mission to catalog hundreds of millions of galaxies spanning 10 billion years of cosmic time.
The spacecraft was placed in standby mode Feb. 7 while NASA and Caltech worked out a Space Act Agreement, signed May 14, to allow the university to resume spacecraft operations and data management for the mission, the agency reported.
"NASA sees this as an opportunity to allow the public to continue reaping the benefits from this space asset that NASA developed using federal funding," said Paul Hertz, director of the agency's astrophysics division at NASA headquarters in Washington.
"This is an excellent example of a public/private partnership that will help further astronomy in the United States."
Under the agreement, NASA maintains ownership and liability for the spacecraft until Caltech completes science activities, at which time it will decommission the spacecraft for NASA.
The mission's batteries and solar panels have an expected lifetime of 12 years or more, NASA said.