Updates James Webb Space Telescope updates

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NASA:
Tests Under way on the Sunshield for NASA's Webb Telescope

September 19, 2011

NASA is testing an element of the sunshield that will protect the James Webb Space Telescope's mirrors and instruments during its mission to observe the most distant objects in the universe.

The sunshield will consist of five tennis court-sized layers to allow the Webb telescope to cool to its cryogenic operating temperature of minus 387.7 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Kelvin).

Click on image to enlarge​
The five-layer James Webb Space Telescope sunshield consists of thin membranes made from a polymer-based film and supporting equipment such as spreader bars, booms, cabling, and containment shells. Designed to block solar light and keep the Observatory operating at cryogenic temperatures.​
Credit: NASA/Northrop Grumman​


Testing began early this month at ManTech International Corp.'s Nexolve facility in Huntsville, Ala., using flight-like material for the sunshield, a full-scale test frame and hardware attachments. The test sunshield layer is made of Kapton, a very thin, high-performance plastic with a reflective metallic coating, similar to a Mylar balloon. Each sunshield layer is less than half the thickness of a sheet of paper. It is stitched together like a quilt from more than 52 individual pieces because manufacturers do not make Kapton sheets as big as a tennis court.

The tests are expected to be completed in two weeks.

"The conclusion of testing on this full size layer will be the final step of the sunshield's development program and provides the confidence and experience to manufacture the five flight layers," said Keith Parrish, Webb Sunshield manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

During testing, engineers use a high-precision laser radar to measure the layer every few inches at room temperature and pressure, creating a 3D map of the material surface, which is curved in multiple directions. The map will be compared to computer models to see if the material behaved as predicted, and whether critical clearances with adjacent hardware are achieved.

The test will be done on all five layers to give engineers a precise idea of how the entire sunshield will behave once in orbit. Last year, a one-third-scale model of the sunshield was tested in a chamber that simulated the extreme temperatures it will experience in space. The test confirmed the sunshield will allow the telescope to cool to its operating temperature.

After the full-size sunshield layers complete testing and model analysis, they will be sent to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach Calif., where engineers verify the process of how the layers will unfurl in space. There the sunshield layers will be folded, much like a parachute, so they can be safely stowed for launch.

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NASA Press Release: RELEASE : 11-311 - Tests Under Way On The Sunshield For NASA'S Webb Telescope

SPACE.com: NASA Spending Bill Boosts Hubble Telescope Successor, Funds Commercial Crew
 

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Universe Today: Senate Approves Bill Funding JWST:
This afternoon the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 2112, a FY 2012 bill from Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski that would fund the James Webb Space Telescope to launch in 2018. This is another step forward for the next-generation space telescope, which many have called the successor to Hubble… all that now remains is for the House to reconcile.

“We are creating the building blocks that we need for a smarter America. Our nation is in an amazing race – the race for discovery and new knowledge, the race to remain competitive,” Chairwoman Mikulski said. ”This bill includes full funding of the James Webb Telescope to achieve a 2018 launch. The Webb Telescope supports 1,200 jobs and will lead to the kind of innovation and discovery that have made America great. It will inspire America’s next generation of scientists and innovators that will have the new ideas that lead to new products and new jobs.”

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Well, keep your fingers crossed and check your local probe transmission frequencies...
 

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NASA:
Assembly Stand Completed for NASA's Webb Telescope Flight Optics

Nov. 17, 2011

The clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has received a giant structural steel frame that will be used to assemble the mirrors and instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope.

"This milestone is important as it marks the transition to the integration and testing phase for the Webb telescope's optical telescope element," said Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard.

The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and scientific successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, Webb will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies ever formed and study planets around distant stars.

The installation of the giant structural steel optical assembly stand was recently completed at Goddard by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif., and its teammate ITT Exelis, McLean, Va. Northrop Grumman is leading the design and development effort for the telescope under contract to Goddard.

"Due to the excellent efforts of our teammate ITT Exelis, we have completed each of the major elements of equipment required to complete the assembly of the optical flight telescope," said Scott Willoughby, Webb telescope vice president and program manager at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "With the near completion of the final cryotest for the last six flight mirror segments, we are making great progress on the program."

Click on image to enlarge​
Webb's AOAS The Webb Telescope Ambient Optical Assembly Stand.
Credit: NASA​


Artist's concept of the James Webb Space Telescope September 2009 artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA
› Larger image The U-shaped optical assembly stand is is 24 feet high, 52 feet wide and 41 feet long and weighs 139,000 pounds. Its purpose is to cradle the entire 3.7 metric ton optical telescope and install 18 individual 90 pound mirror segments and other components onto the telescope structure with better than one one-thousandth of an inch precision. The platform has been installed in Goddard's largest clean room where Northrop Grumman and ITT will assemble the telescope in late 2014.

ITT Exelis teammate JPW Companies in Syracuse, N.Y., built the massive structure. Two other ITT teammates supplied other elements of the assembly stand: Cranetech, Inc. designed and built the track system suspended above the stand and Progressive Machine and Design made the robotic arms attached to the track that install the mirror segments. The ITT Exelis team spent a year incrementally building and demonstrating the mirror installation equipment.

"The integration equipment is a critical piece of the Webb telescope program. Over the past three years, ITT Exelis has developed a risk reduction program to demonstrate the key elements of this equipment," said Rob Mitrevski, vice president and general manager, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems at ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems. "With the delivery of the assembly stand, all of the equipment is coming together in preparation for the telescope assembly effort."

The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

For more information about the James Webb Space Telescope, visit:

http://jwst.nasa.gov

To see the assembly stand and other Webb telescope components in Goddard's clean room, visit:

http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/webcam.html
 

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Time lapse of the construction of the assembly stand

 

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Aviation Week: NASA Tells Skeptical House Panel Webb Fixed:
Work on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is on track to stay within its latest cost and schedule plan, NASA told Congress Dec. 6, now that the agency has implemented recommendations from the outside panel that found the 6.5-meter segmented infrared telescope’s cost had jumped by $3.6 billion over its earlier estimate.

“NASA now has a robust new baseline cost and schedule for JWST,” Rick Howard, JWST program director, told the House Science Committee. “This new baseline provides high confidence that NASA can implement JWST within the resources available in a constrained budget environment and achieve a launch readiness date of October 2018.”

Congress added $156 million to NASA’s fiscal 2012 budget request for the Webb telescope, and capped overall development cost at $8 billion. For the fiscal year that ends next September, the agency has $530 million to spend on the project.

Among reforms Howard said the agency has taken are replacing its management structure — and managers — with him as the new program chief running an agency-level program at NASA headquarters, and a top-priority rating from Administrator Charles Bolden. The confidence level required for cost estimates has been raised from 70% to 80%, signifying more careful analysis of cost factors, and the program has added 13 months of funded schedule reserve to meet unexpected problems. The primary challenges remaining in the program are building the spacecraft and the sunshield that will allow it to operate chilled to a temperature of 40K at the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, and integrating and testing the outsized elements in a large thermal vacuum chamber at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Near term, Howard told Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) Congress can gauge progress on the telescope’s development by whether all four of its instruments are delivered in the coming year, whether testing of the 18 beryllium mirror segments is finished, and whether the center section of the primary backup structure that supports the mirrors is finished.

In fiscal 2011, he said, the program met 19 milestones on or ahead of schedule; missed one deadline by a month and deferred another for a redesign.

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NASA:
For NASA Webb Telescope Engineers, COCOA this Winter Means Precision Testing

December 15, 2011

Engineers working on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope are bringing out the COCOA this winter, but it's not a warm beverage. Rather, it’s a way to check that the mirrors are perfectly shaped and will work in the frosty environment of space.

COCOA stands for "Center of Curvature Optical Assembly." Curvature is important in a mirror, just as the convex side mirrors on your car are shaped to give you a wide field of vision behind and beside your car. COCOA tests on the Webb telescope's concave mirror segments are critical because they will tell engineers if all of the mirrors work together to make a telescope that has the correct shape.

"We need to check that the mirrors are of the right prescription, just like eyeglasses, so the images from our telescope are not blurry," said Lee Feinberg, Webb telescope Optical Telescope Manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

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Click on images to enlarge​
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The Center Of Curvature Optical Assembly (COCOA) will allow the program to verify the optical performance of the 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror at its 40 degrees Kelvin (-233 Celsius) operating temperature. The COCOA contains mechanical and optical instruments that allow the test team to identify, align and test the 18-segments from outside the vacuum chamber. Note: The background of this image has been digitally removed.
Credit: ITT Exelis​
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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. This represents the first six of 18 segments that will form NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror for space observations.
Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/David Higginbotham​


The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 of these being six-sided segments working together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) mirror. Every individual mirror has been previously tested to confirm it has the correct shape, but testing them all together as an assembled telescope with COCOA ensures that the telescope as a whole works correctly.

The COCOA is part of NASA's vacuum cryo equipment that will be used at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to test the performance of the mirrors at operating temperatures. That's important because COCOA tells engineers if the full 18 segment mirror is functioning correctly in "operating temperatures" of 40 degrees Kelvin (-233 Celsius, or -387.4 Fahrenheit) prior to final assembly of the observatory before launch.

COCOA was built by ITT Exelis of Rochester, N.Y., with subcontractor Micro in Rochester, N.Y. ITT Exelis and Micro engineers are assembling the large Center of Curvature test system.

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NASA:
Cryogenic Testing Completed for NASA's Webb Telescope Mirrors

December 21, 2011

GREENBELT, Md. -- Cryogenic testing is complete for the final six primary mirror segments and a secondary mirror that will fly on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. The milestone represents the successful culmination of a process that took years and broke new ground in manufacturing and testing large mirrors.

"The mirror completion means we can build a large, deployable telescope for space," said Scott Willoughby, vice president and Webb program manager at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "We have proven real hardware will perform to the requirements of the mission."

The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 mirror segments working together as a large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. Each individual mirror segment now has been successfully tested to operate at 40 Kelvin (-387 Fahrenheit or -233 Celsius).

"Mirrors need to be cold so their own heat does not drown out the very faint infrared images," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element manager for the Webb telescope at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "With the completion of all mirror cryogenic testing, the toughest challenge since the beginning of the program is now completely behind us."

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Click on images to enlarge​
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The James Webb Space Telescope mirrors have completed deep-freeze tests and are removed from the X-ray and Cryogenic test Facility at Marshall Space Flight Center.
Credit: Emmett Given, NASA Marshall​
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The James Webb Space Telescope full-scale model was assembled on the lawn at Goddard Space Flight Center, and displayed during September 19 - 25, 2005. The Webb Telescope team took a group photo with it which demonstrates the size of the telescope.
Credit: NASA​
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The James Webb Space Telescope mirrors have completed deep-freeze tests and are removed from the X-ray and Cryogenic test Facility at Marshall Space Flight Center.
Credit: Emmett Given, NASA Marshall​


Completed at the X-ray and Cryogenic Facility (XRCF) at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., a ten-week test series chilled the primary mirror segments to -379 degrees Fahrenheit. During two test cycles, telescope engineers took extremely detailed measurements of how each individual mirror's shape changed as it cooled. Testing verified each mirror changed shape with temperature as expected and each one will be the correct shape upon reaching the extremely cold operating temperature after reaching deep space.

"Achieving the best performance requires conditioning and testing the mirrors in the XRCF at temperatures just as cold as will be encountered in space," said Helen Cole, project manager for Webb Telescope mirror activities at the XRCF. "This testing ensures the mirrors will focus crisply in space, which will allow us to see new wonders in our universe."

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. successfully completed comparable testing on the secondary mirror. However, because the secondary mirror is convex (i.e., it has a domed surface that bulges outward instead of a concave one that dishes inward like a bowl), it does not converge light to a focus. Testing the mirror presented a unique challenge involving a special process and more complex optical measurements.

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NASA Press Release: RELEASE : 11-424 - Cryogenic Testing Completed For NASA's Webb Telescope Mirrors

Universe Today: James Webb Mirrors Pass Deep-Freeze Exams
 
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