james Webb Space Telescope Robotic News
April 14, 2011 19:46:46
NASA's Next Generation Space Telescope Marks Key Milestone
By Source: NASA

Huntsville, Ala. -- The first six of 18 segments that will form NASA's James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror for space observations will begin final round-the-clock cryogenic testing this week. These tests will confirm the mirrors will respond as expected to the extreme temperatures of space prior to integration into the telescope's permanent housing structure.

The X-ray and Cryogenic Facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. will provide the space-like environment to help engineers measure how well the telescope will image infrared sources once in orbit.

Each mirror segment measures approximately 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) in diameter to form the 21.3 foot (6.5 meters), hexagonal telescope mirror assembly critical for infrared observations. Each of the 18 hexagonal-shaped mirror assemblies weighs approximately 88 pounds (40 kilograms). The mirrors are made of a light and strong metal called beryllium, and coated with a microscopically thin coat of gold to enabling the mirror to efficiently collect light.

"The six flight mirrors sitting ready for cryogenic acceptance tests have been carefully polished to their exact prescriptions," said Helen Cole, project manager for Webb activities at Marshall. "It's taken the entire mirror development team, including all the partners, over eight years of fabrication, polishing and cryogenic testing to get to this point."

During cryogenic testing, the mirrors are subjected to extreme temperatures dipping to minus 415 degrees Fahrenheit (-248C) in a 7,600 cubic-foot (approximately 215 cubic meter) helium-cooled vacuum chamber. This permits engineers to measure in extreme detail how the shape of the mirror changes as it cools. This simulates the actual processes each mirror will undergo as it changes shape over a range of operational temperatures in space.

"This final cryotest is expected to confirm the exacting processes that have resulted in flight mirrors manufactured to tolerances as tight as 20 nanometers, or less than one millionth of an inch," said Scott Texter, Webb Optical Telescope element manager at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif.

A second set of six mirror assemblies will arrive at Marshall in July to begin testing, and the final set of six will arrive during the fall.

The Webb Telescope is NASA's next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope designed, Webb will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies ever formed and help identify unexplored planets around distant stars. The telescope will orbit approximately one million miles from Earth.

"The Webb telescope continues to make good technological progress," said Rick Howard, JWST Program Director in Washington. "We’re currently developing a new baseline cost and schedule to ensure the success of the program."

 
 NASA engineer Ernie Wright looks on as the first six flight ready James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror segments are prepped to begin final cryogenic testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham)

The telescope is a combined project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor under NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., is responsible for mirror development. L-3- Tinsley Laboratories Inc. in Richmond, Calif. is responsible for mirror grinding and polishing.

 

More Interactive Photography
Gale CratorInterActive First look crisp look around Gale Crator This 360-degree, full-resolution panorama from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the area all around...
Endeavour nose gear in OPFInterActive Endeavour nose gear in OPF This was shot from forward and underneath Space Shuttle Endeavour in the Orbiter Processing...
Endeavor engine compartmentInterActive Endeavor engine compartment View into the Space Shuttle's engine compartment with the three main engines removed.
Endeavor engine compartmentInterActive Endeavor engine compartment View into the Space Shuttle's engine compartment with the three main engines removed.
Endeavour Cargo BayInterActive Endeavour Cargo Bay This image was shot from the forward end of Space Shuttle Endeavour's cargo ba as it sits in...
Interior view of the Space Shuttle Endeavour forward flight deck. InterActive Interior view of the Space Shuttle Endeavour forward flight deck. Interior view of the Space Shuttle Endeavour aft flight deck.
Endeavour Forward Flight DeckInterActive Endeavour Forward Flight Deck Interior view of the Space Shuttle Endeavour forward flight deck.
Atlas V with Mars Science Laboratory payloadInterActive Atlas V with Mars Science Laboratory payload The rover Curiosity will carry the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific...
Curiosity roverInterActive Curiosity rover NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or...
Curiosity roverInterActive Curiosity rover NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or...
Gravity Recovery and Interior LaboratoryInterActive GRAIL The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission's primary science objectives will be to...
Atlas V AV-029InterActive Atlas V AV-029 ULA Atlas V number AV-029 reaches launch pad on August 4th, 2011. In less than 1 day this Atlas...
Atlas V up closeInterActive Atlas V up close Get to know the Atlas V up close. Explore the rivets in this 74.62 megapixel image of the Atlas...
JUNO Atlas VInterActive JUNO Atlas V ULA Atlas V with the JUNO probe sitting atop at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is ready for...
Atlantis at wheels stop on runway 15InterActive Atlantis on runway Space Shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth in the predawn hours of July 21st, 2011. Marking the...
Atlantis at wheels stop on runway 15InterActive Atlantis at wheels stop on runway 15 Space Shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth in the predawn hours of July 21st, 2011. Marking the...
Atlantis and towerInterActive Atlantis and tower Space shuttle Atlantis waits to receive payload for the final space shuttle mission STS-135,...
Atlantis payload preparationsInterActive Atlantis payload preparations Space shuttle Atlantis at pad 39A. The payload canister can be seen lifted in to position to...
Walk with the astronautsInterActive Walk with the astronauts A view of the 195ft level of the fixed service structure. This where the astronauts arrive at...
Last Space Shuttle prepares for launchInterActive Last Space Shuttle prepares for launch A close in look at space shuttle Atlantis on June 17th. Launch preparations are on going for...
The last space shuttle to be on the launch padInterActive The last space shuttle to be on the launch pad Space shuttle Atlantis, the last space shuttle to flight begins launch prepartions at pad 39A...
Last space shuttle arrives at launch padInterActive Last space shuttle arrives at launch pad Space shuttle Atlantis is seen here from the top of the rotating service structure the moring...
The last space shuttle has left the buildingInterActive The last space shuttle has left the building Space shuttle Atlantis rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building for the last time on the...
Space Shuttle Atlantis prepared to rollout to pad   InterActive Space Shuttle Atlantis prepared to rollout to pad Space shuttle Atlantis complete with the solid rocket boosters and external tank that will...
HiRes Atlantis hanging in VABInterActive HiRes Atlantis hanging in VAB HiRes image of Space Shuttle Atlantis hanging in the Vehical Assembly Building. This shot was...
Atlantis vertical from VAB Level 5InterActive Atlantis vertical from VAB Level 5 Space Shuttle Atlantis after being lifted into the verticle position before being mated to the...
Atlantis verticalInterActive Atlantis vertical Space Shuttle Atlantis hangs vertical before removing the rear hoist and lifting it for the...
Atlantis rolling verticalInterActive Atlantis rolling vertical Here Space Shuttle Atlantis is almost vertical being positioned to soon be mated to the...
Atlantis hanging in VABInterActive Atlantis hanging in VAB Space Shuttle Atlantis is seen here hanging about 10 feet above the VAB floor. It has justed...
Endeavour at nightInterActive Endeavour at night Space shuttle Endeavour seen here at night as launch preparation continue for the first launch...
Atlantis rolling over to VAB for final missionInterActive Atlantis rolling over to VAB for final mission Space Shuttle Atlantis rolling over the VAB for the last time. Atlantis is scheduled to be the...
Atlantis outside VAB for employee photosInterActive Atlantis outside VAB for employee photos Space shuttle Atlantis, the last space shuttle, pauses during rollover from the OPF to the VAB...
Hi Resolution image of the last space shuttleInterActive Hi Resolution image of the last space shuttle Hi Resolution composit image of the last space shuttle, Atlantis, as it sits atop the transport...
Atlantis in the VABInterActive Atlantis in the VAB Nice 360 degree view of the VAB with Atlantis being preped for the Lift and Mate procedure
Atlantis on the sled in VABInterActive Atlantis on the sled in VAB Explore the VAB with Space Shuttle Atlantis on the sled after rollover to the VAB jst before...
Atlantis being attached to slingInterActive Atlantis being attached to sling Full 360 degree panorama from inside the VAB as Space Shuttle Atlantis is attached to the sling...
Endeavour after RSS retractionInterActive Endeavour after RSS retraction Hi-Res image of Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launch pad 39A minutes after the RSS was...
The Mound STS-134 4/29 AttemptInterActive The Mound STS-134 4/29 Attempt This a 360 degree panorama from the mound of the KSC media center. This was the scence about an...
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS)InterActive Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, a particle physics detector designed to search for various...
AMS in the SSPFInterActive AMS in the SSPF The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, a particle physics detector designed to search for various...
Here is Space Shuttle Endeavour just after sunriseInterActive Here is Space Shuttle Endeavour just after sunrise Here is Space Shuttle Endeavour just after sunrise the morning it arrived from the VAB. How...
Endeavour in the VABInterActive Endeavour in the VAB Space Shuttle Endeavour sitting stacked and ready atop the crawler to rollout the launch pad.
Endeavour in the VABInterActive Endeavour in the VAB Space Shuttle Endeavour sitting stacked and ready atop the crawler to rollout the launch pad.
Space Shuttle Discovery final towoverInterActive Space Shuttle Discovery final towover View of Space Shuttle Discovery 4 hours after returning to Earth for the last time. Discovery...
Space Shuttle Discovery Final LaunchInterActive Space Shuttle Discovery Final Launch This a 360 degree panorama taken 3 mile from the launch pad capturing the final lift off of...
Space shuttle Discovery final launchInterActive Space shuttle Discovery final launch This a 360 degree panorama taken 3 mile from the launch pad capturing the final lift off of...
Discovery at NightInterActive Discovery at Night This a panorama of Space Shuttle Discovery shortly after RSS retraction on 11/3/2010 preparing...
GRIP DC-8 PanoramaInterActive GRIP DC-8 Panorama Interior of forward section of NASA GRIP aircraft while configured for studding hurricane...
GRIP DC-8 InteriorInterActive GRIP DC-8 Interior Interior of forward section of NASA GRIP aircraft while configured for studding hurricane...
NASA GRIP DC-8InterActive NASA GRIP DC-8 The NASA DC-8 is a four-engine jet transport that has been highly modified to support the...
Endeavour on padInterActive Endeavour ready for launch HiRes image of Endeavour at Pad 39A
AMS-2 Antimatter TelescopeInterActive AMS-2 Antimatter Telescope Explore the SSPF and ESA's Antimatter Telescope. 360 rotating,zoomable Panorama!
Spectacular ultra hi-rez interactive shot of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launch pad for the last timeInterActive Explore LC-39A !! Spectacular ultra hi-rez interactive shot of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launch pad for...