The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory will continue to provide science and operations support to Nasa’s Chandra X-ray space observatory.

Chandra is the world’s most powerful X-ray telescope with eight-times greater resolution, making it able to detect sources 20 times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

The space telescope will obtain X-ray images and spectra of violent, high-temperature events and objects to help in understanding the structure and evolution of the universe.

Nasa has extended the contract with the Smithsonian, effecting a $172m modification and bringing the total value of the contract to about $545m.

The contract also has two three-year options with the first option valued at $177m and the second at about $191m.

The base period will continue to September 2013.