Remember what a big deal the Hubble was a few years ago? It was pretty much THE go-to telescope, and it definitely got results. However, as time passed, other telescopes were created with the help of newer technology, leaving the old veteran behind. As part of their 2018 launch mission, James Webb Space Telescope had primary mirror successfully installed.
The Hubble’s spiritual successor
The North American Space Agency’s James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful and the largest telescope ever built. As the team over at the Agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland finally finished the installation of the first mirror segment, the Science Mission Directorate associate administrator explains how it works.
According to him, the JWST will be able to focus light and observe the far reaches of the Universe never before observed, as old as from the Universe’s very beginnings. The team excited that with the mirrors now complete, they are one step closer to unraveling the mysteries of the Universe.
And their over-enthusiasm is by no measure unwarranted, as the new telescope is the product of ten years’ worth of development, design, testing, and engineering.
Each and every one of the gold plated mirrors included in the telescope is over 4.3 feet tall, and each weighs in at over 88 pounds. While in space, the 18 hexagonal mirror pieces will act as a single large entity, a mirror with a diameter of 21.3 feet.
So who got in on the action?
The project’s manager says that now it is time for the testing to begin in order to see if all of the components can withstand a launching procedure, since it would be a shame if the telescope were to malfunction, or if the mirrors just cracked before leaving the planet’s atmosphere.
Construction and development of the mirrors was handled by Colorado based company Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, while the installation of the 18 individual mirrors was handled by the Harris Corporation.
The Integrated Science Instrument Module, basically the heart of the telescope, is going to be installed after the Harris Corporation finishes installing the secondary mirror, as well as the aft optics assembly.
Further tests will then be performed at both Goddard and in Houston’s Johnson Space Center, in order to determine the James Webb Space Telescope’s vibration and acoustic resistance, as well as how well it can handle the freezing temperatures of outer space.
Image source: Wikimedia