Key Optical Testing Completed At NASA's Webb Space Telescope

22 January 2013

The group of engineers engaged on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) made significant progress on the project with the recent completion of the performance testing on the observatory's aft-optics system (AOS).

The testing was carried out at the Boulder, Colorado facilities of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp, which is the main subcontractor to Northrop Grumman for the optical technology and lightweight mirror system.

This is an important milestone as it signals that all of the space telescope's mirror systems are ready for integration and testing, said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element Manager for JWST at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

The AOS is the final optical subsystem for JWST to complete integration and testing at Ball Aerospace. It has already passed thermal, vibration and cryogenic tests to prove it can withstand the strong vibrations of the rocket launch and function well at the extremely low temperatures in space. The AOS will now be used in integrated testing with the flight actuator drive unit and AOS source plate assembly.

The AOS is a precision beryllium rectangular optical bench that holds the telescope's tertiary and fine steering mirrors. Ball started shipping the primary mirrors to Goddard last September, with the rest due to arrive at NASA's space research lab this year, pending telescope integration in 2015. JWST is on track for a 2018 launch date.

JWST is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Seen as the most powerful space telescope to date, it will observe the most distant objects in the universe, providing images of the first galaxies ever formed and unexplored planets around distant stars.