Harris Corporation has successfully completed thermal vacuum testing with partner NASA’s Johnson Space Center, for the James Webb Space Telescope, which validates its ability to operate in the frigid, airless environment of space.
The Webb telescope will be the premier space observatory of the next decade, and will study galaxy, star and planet formation in the universe.
(The Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s next great orbiting observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor. This video, narrated by “Deep Astronomy” host Tony Darnell, draws the line between the two telescopes, explaining how Webb will build upon and continue Hubble’s work exploring the universe. Courtesy of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and YouTube)
Harris’ team helped safeguard the telescope in Houston during Hurricane Harvey and ensured uninterrupted testing – including monitoring more than 1,000 sensors on the telescope around the clock.
In addition, Harris designed a multi-wavelength interferometer system that aligned 18 mirror segments into one 6.5-meter phased primary mirror to verify optical quality and placement.
(Learn More. About 1 million miles away from the nearest eye surgeon, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be able to perfect its own vision while in orbit. Though the Webb telescope will focus on stars and galaxies approximately 13.5 billion light-years away, its sight goes through a similar process as you would if you underwent laser vision correction surgery to be able to focus on an object 10 feet across the room. In orbit at Earth’s second Lagrange point (L2), far from the help of a terrestrial doctor, Webb will use its near-infrared camera (NIRCam) instrument to help align its primary mirror segments about 40 days after launch, once they have unfolded from their unaligned stowed position and cooled to their operating temperatures. Courtesy of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and YouTube)
“This testing culminates 15 years of hard work by our Harris team,” said Rob Mitrevski, vice president and general manager, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Harris Space and Intelligence Systems.
“This extraordinary program is certain to dramatically increase our knowledge of the universe.”
Harris engineers integrated all 18 mirror segments on the Webb telescope, as well as designed and installed the cryogenic test equipment, including a simulator to mimic the temperature of the Sun.
Additionally, Harris built the structure that held and isolated the telescope during vibration and acoustic testing.
(NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope recently got a “lift and tuck” in the cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. In a time lapse video taken from special “Webb Cams” mounted in NASA Goddard’s largest clean room, the Webb telescope was moved via crane to a rotating stand to prepare and position it for center of curvature testing. Precise measurements of the mirrors will be done via laser interferometer both before and after environmental testing. (i.e. vibration testing to simulate a rocket launch.Courtesy of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and YouTube)
With environmental, thermal and optical tests complete, the Webb telescope will be shipped to California, where it will be integrated with the spacecraft, forming the complete observatory.
The Webb telescope is designed to unravel some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, from discovering the first stars and galaxies that formed after the big bang to studying the atmospheres of planets around other stars.
It is a joint project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.