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JWST Completes Cryogenic Testing.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the next-generation premier space observatory, exploring 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 first mirror segment that will fly on the James Webb Space Telescope, built by Northrop Grumman Corporation, has completed its first series of cryogenic temperature tests in the X-ray and Cryogenic Facility at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The mirror segment is the first of 18 flight mirror segments that will be joined to make a giant, 6.5-meter diameter (21.3 ft.) hexagonal mirror. The segments will be subject to temperatures of -414 degrees Fahrenheit in a 7,600 cubic-foot helium-cooled vacuum chamber at NASA Marshall.
Engineers will measure how the mirror changes shape going from room temperature to cryogenic (frigid) temperatures, as the metal expands and contracts. They can model these changes to some extent, but not perfectly. The mirrors will be polished to about 100 nanometers (a human hair is approximately 60,000 to 120,000 nanometers) accuracy at room temperature, based on the expected changes. Then it will be cooled down to cryogenic temperatures and engineers will measure the mirror's surface, creating a "hit map" of unexpected changes.
Since there are 18 mirror segments, each measuring about 1.5 meters (4.9 ft.) in diameter, they will be tested in batches of six and chilled to cryogenic temperatures four times in a six-week time span. It takes approximately five days to cool a mirror segment to cryogenic temperatures. All flight mirror tests are expected to be completed in June 2011. The Webb telescope is scheduled for launch in 2013.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Webb telescope, leading a design and development team under contract to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Related Link: James Webb Space Telescope
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