Headlines > News > NASA Chills: James Webb Space Telescope Mirrors Are Readied for Test

NASA Chills: James Webb Space Telescope Mirrors Are Readied for Test

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Sat Aug 1, 2009 7:58 am via: source
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala., (NASA) — Three of the 18 James Webb Space Telescope mirror segments were mounted on a test stand July 30 at the X-ray & Cryogenic Facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The mirror segments are being moved into the facility’s cryogenic vacuum chamber, which will chill them to minus 414 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they can withstand the extreme temperatures of space. As this cooling takes place, engineers and technicians from NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., will measure in extreme detail how the shapes of the mirrors change, simulating how they’ll react to temperature changes in space.

A team of engineers and technicians from NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., prepare to load three James Webb Space Telescope mirror segments into a test chamber in the X-ray & Cryogenic Facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

A team of engineers and technicians from NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., prepare to load three James Webb Space Telescope mirror segments into a test chamber in the X-ray & Cryogenic Facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Mirror testing is key to the development of the Webb Telescope, which requires a large mirror to collect as much light as possible, enabling the telescope to “see” galaxies some 13 billion light-years away. Webb Telescope scientists and engineers have determined that a primary mirror 6.5 meters wide, or 21 feet 4 inches, is needed to measure the light from these galaxies. A mirror this large has never been launched into outer space before.

Testing of the three mirrors will continue through mid-November. The next six mirror segments will arrive for testing in January 2010. Testing will continue through 2011.

Ball Aerospace, a subcontractor of Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., is conducting the cryogenic testing on the mirror segments. Northrop Grumman is NASA’s prime contractor on the James Webb Space Telescope program. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., leads the program for the agency.

The Marshall Center’s X-ray & Cryogenic Facility is the world’s largest X-ray telescope test facility and a unique cryogenic optical test chamber.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the next-generation premier space observatory that will explore deep space phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets and stars. The Webb Telescope will give scientists clues about the formation of the universe and the evolution of our own solar system, from the first light after the Big Bang to the formation of star systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth. The telescope is scheduled to launch to space in 2014.

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