Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cryogenic testing completed for NASA's WEBB Telescope mirrors

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 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: Credit: Emmett Given, NASA Marshall

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."

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.

The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be most powerful space telescope ever built, provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

For images related to this story, visit:
For more information about the Webb telescope, visit:

Lynn Chandler | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First results of NSTX-U research operations

26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica

26.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>