NASA and industry partner Harris Corp. have completed their work to install the Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.-built primary mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope ahead of its scheduled launch in 2018.
The space agency said Thursday Harris installed Webb’s 18 mirrors with the final one in place Wednesday and will also lead integration work and tests for the telescope as a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman, NASA’s prime contractor for the program.
Ball Aerospace acts as principal subcontractor to Northrop for Webb’s optical technology and system design that includes mirrors for the telescope, which Harris worked on at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Webb is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and will work to analyze the analyze the history of the universe, evolution of Earth’s solar system and other solar systems that could contain planets like Earth that can support life.
“Now that the mirror is complete, we look forward to installing the other optics and conducting tests on all the components to make sure the telescope can withstand a rocket launch,” said Bill Ochs, Webb’s project manager.
Each mirror segment has a span of close to 4.2 feet and weighs approximately 88 pounds and are built to act as a single, 21.3-foot diameter system once in space and fully deployed.
“The Harris team will be installing the aft optics assembly and the secondary mirror in order to finish the actual telescope,“ said Gary Matthews, director of universe exploration at Harris.
“The heart of the telescope, the integrated science instrument module, will then be integrated into the telescope. After acoustic, vibration, and other tests at Goddard, we will ship the system down to Johnson Space Center in Houston for an intensive cryogenic optical test to ensure everything is working properly.“
Webb is an international project led by NASA with partner organizations European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency.