James Webb telescope completes mirror-coating milestone

Sep 13, 2011
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 in Huntsville, Ala. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major milestone in its development. The mirrors that will fly aboard the telescope have completed the coating process at Quantum Coating Inc. in Moorestown, N.J.

The telescope's mirrors have been coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold, selected for its ability to properly reflect infrared light from the mirrors into the observatory's science instruments. The coating allows the Webb telescope's "infrared eyes" to observe extremely faint objects in infrared light. Webb's mission is to observe the most distant objects in the universe.

"Finishing all coatings on schedule is another major success story for the Webb mirrors," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Element manager for the Webb telescope at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "These coatings easily meet their specifications, ensuring even more potential for the Webb telescope."

The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 mirror segments working together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. The mirror segments are made of beryllium, which was selected for its stiffness, light weight and stability at . Bare beryllium is not very reflective of near-infrared light, so each mirror is coated with about 0.12 ounce of gold.

The last full size (4.9-foot /1.5-meter) hexagonal beryllium primary mirror segment that will fly aboard the observatory recently was coated, completing this stage of mirror production.

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

Mirror manufacturing began eight years ago with blanks made out of beryllium, an extremely hard metal that holds its shape in the extreme cold of space where the telescope will orbit. Mirror coating began in June 2010. Several of the smaller mirrors in the telescope, the tertiary mirror and the fine steering mirror, were coated in 2010. The secondary mirror was finished earlier this year.

Quantum Coating Inc. (QCI) is under contract to Ball Aerospace and Northrop Grumman. QCI constructed a new coating facility and clean room to coat the large mirror segments. QCI developed the gold coating for performance in certain areas, such as uniformity, cryogenic cycling, durability, stress and reflectance, in a two-year effort prior to coating the first flight mirror.

In the process, gold is heated to its liquid point, more than 2,500 Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius), and evaporates onto the mirror's optical surface. The coatings are 120 nanometers, a thickness of about a millionth of an inch or 200 times thinner than a human hair.

"We faced many technical challenges on the Webb mirror coating program," said Ian Stevenson, director of coating at Quantum Coating. "One of the most daunting was that all flight hardware runs had to be executed without a single failure."

The mirror segments recently were shipped to Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo., where actuators are attached that help move the mirror. From there, the segments travel to the X-ray and Calibration Facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to undergo a final test when they will be chilled to -400 Fahrenheit (-240 degrees Celsius). The last batch of six flight mirrors should complete the test by the end of this year.

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Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (16) Sep 13, 2011
The current, added problem is that the Republicans - the party currently with "power of the purse" - have a hate-on for NASA because NASA was actually DOING the climate research and ongoing studies in response to screams of "global climate change is a myth, there's not enough research." The cuckoo clock wing of the party wants to kill NASA right now because they don't want there to BE enough research, ever.
barturas
5 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2011
Hasn't JWT project been closed due to lack of funding? I'm sure I've read about it recently ...
Nanobanano
4.3 / 5 (13) Sep 13, 2011
Agreed.

I don't know what the deal is, but the republican party is more and more anti-science and anti-education.

Maybe the obscenely wealthy are afraid that an educated public won't be as easy to control as has been the case in the past.

it's sad that so many "conservative christians" vote republican almost exclusively, even though the republican party's ideology is totally contrary to christian teaching, or I should say they are no more christian than democrats, and possibly less so, regardless of what they claim.

The story of the "Rich Young Ruler" condemns the entire Republican party, RE Rick Perry, for all time sake. They think they serve God, when in reality they serve evil in the name of Jesus, contrary to Jesus' teachings.

Money is the Republican god, and the social justice Jesus taught is nowhere to be found in the "practice" of republicanism.

It's complete ignorance, regardless. The party leaders thrive on the ignorance and "blind faith" of it's followers
Nanobanano
3.7 / 5 (9) Sep 13, 2011
they have "taken away the key of knowledge" and "those that were entering in they hindered".

It's a sad state of affairs when the so-called Christians are idiots, "My people perish for lack of KNOWLEDGE," (NOTE, HE DID NOT SAY "FOR LACK OF FAITH," FOR ANY OF YOU HYPER-FAITH FOOL CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS WHO MAY BE READING).

I want to know the TRUTH, whatever it may be, and I don't want some conservative fake christians who are usually the biggest liars of all getting in the way of it.

Oh yeah, both Moses and Jesus were radical, extremely left socialists, about as far from modern republicans as anything could ever get, like left of the Chinese, Russians, and Cubans and keep going a bit more (but without the political assassinations)...

Oh yeah, unlike modern false preachers, Moses at least turned down offerings once he finished what he claimed God told him to do. He sent the money and other gifts back to the people because they gave too much. Would NEVER see that today...
Nanobanano
4 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2011
People like Rick Perry, who called the social security "unconstitutional," should be banned from running from office.

I wish a real candidate would run for office, at least once in my life time. There really just hasn't been one ever since I was old enough to vote.

I don't know what the deal is with this country lately anyway. America is more divided now than it has been since at least the 1960's, if not the civil war.

I wish the republicans and democrats would all go away, and then we could just be people again.

Congress needs a paycut too. In any other job, if you never accomplish anything good, you don't get paid, or you quickly get fired.

Heck, they shouldn't even get paid: president, senate, representatives, federal judges; cut their pay to minimum wage or something.

We need a volunteer government, then the only people who'd show up are the ones who actually give a damn about the issues, instead of special interests.
Nanoparticler
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 13, 2011
If you want to completely insure that the only people running our government are wealthy, then yes, by all means enact a "volunteer government". However, if you think that it just might be a good idea that people without trust funds and stock portfolios work in our government, then they need a livable wage. Grow up a little.

James Webb will fly. It would be far too embarrassing to pull out at this point, given the collaborative effort. Nobody is actually planning on pulling the plug, but the Republicans are using it as leverage. They know that by threatening it, they'll get compromise elsewhere. They're not SO stupid as to alienate the entire scientific community. This is politics, not science policy. Americans love their space telescopes, and everyone in Washington knows it.

The real tragedy is that it DID become so expensive. Other projects will be cancelled or shelved because of the resources this one will consume. There are a lot of eggs in this one basket...
El_Nose
5 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2011
unfortunate;y if you cut pay to minimum wage the only people who would run the government would be those who weren't capable of getting a job anywhere else

the REAL QUESTION:

Can a Russian rocket actually deliver this baby to high orbit?
yyz
5 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2011
"Can a Russian rocket actually deliver this baby to high orbit?"

That's a good question, but as of now JWST is scheduled to be launched by an Ariane 5 from French Guiana. It's a big part of ESA's contribution to the project.
Pete1983
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2011
unfortunate;y if you cut pay to minimum wage the only people who would run the government would be those who weren't capable of getting a job anywhere else

Wouldn't that be preferable anyway? Quite seriously, I think I would rather be governed by a random set of people from the population than the lawyer/business demographic all western countries currently enjoy/suffer. Not to mention the fact that most current politicians are there for the power, not the money, as most of them are millionaires in their own right. I really like this idea... it would make the current corporate oligarchy somewhat harder to maintain, and that must be a good thing.

On a serious note though, YAY we might still get JWST launched!
89118a
5 / 5 (3) Sep 13, 2011
Thank you Webb folk! :)
astro_optics
1 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2011
The Republicans should not be attacking NASA, but sack the climate-alarmists that have taken over the organisation instead...not long to wait now!
Nanobanano
3 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2011
Anyway, I maybe finished my rant, for this thread anyway.

Hopefully, when they get this thing up in space some time will be allocated to look at the Gliese system and this new super-earth that was just discovered, though this is more of a deep cosmos observatory trying to look at the edge of the universe, I should think that it should be at least somewhat useful for a detailed survey of the most important known exoplanets.

My main problem with studying things at the very edge of the universe is "relevance". The area it will be studying is so huge and so far away that it would never ever scan more than a fraction of a thousandth of a percent of the sky in it's entire lifetime at that distance. it will be like taking some random samples from a bag of random marbles and other assorted stuff, and then trying to guess the complete contents of the bag based solely on one or two samples.

It makes more sense to employ the telescope to more practical astronomy as in exoplanets.
Nanobanano
3 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2011
The Republicans should not be attacking NASA, but sack the climate-alarmists that have taken over the organisation instead...not long to wait now!


http://igloo.atmo...;sy=2011

We're "only" missing 4 million km of ice since 1980 for same day vs same day. no big deal! Nothing to see here! Literally! Nothing, it's almost all melted! Move along!

Clearly, the earth isn't warming up. The ice just melts because of a democrat conspiracy. I mean, nevermind that would take more energy than humans consume in a year in order to do that through direct thermal input, but those democrats must be the ones melting the ice and blaming it on pollution...
Decimatus
5 / 5 (6) Sep 14, 2011
One day, archeologists in the far far future are going to find pieces of relics similar to this gold plated wonder and marvel at the ancient civilization that used to inhabit this planet.
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2011
Did they solve a "hot pixels" problem?

A team at the University of Arizona in Tucson found in December that about 2% of pixels in a detector destined for JWST's Near Infrared Camera were transmitting signals although no light was hitting them. That's four times as many "hot pixels" as there were when the detector was analyzed in 2008. The researchers later found that the problem affects four of the camera's five long-wavelength detector arrays. NASA allows no more than 5% of a detector's pixels to be hot by the end of the telescope's five-year space mission. At this rate, the detectors may exceed this limit before the telescope even leaves the ground.

In addition, JWST is not a successor of Hubble at all, it will be able to run just a few months in the space, before its coolant will get depleted. IMO it's just another waste of tax payers money, not worth of its potential scientific contribution.
jsdarkdestruction
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 14, 2011
unfortunate;y if you cut pay to minimum wage the only people who would run the government would be those who weren't capable of getting a job anywhere else

the REAL QUESTION:

Can a Russian rocket actually deliver this baby to high orbit?

that would be so awful if after all the waiting and all the drama that has followed over its going over estimated budget multiple times if it was destroyed in flight. i have been excited about jwst since i first heard of it and it never crossed my find till now. scary thought
Callippo
1 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2011
As of August 2011, it is estimated to cost 8.7 Billion USD for the telescope and five years of operation, and launch in 2018. This is just a question, why to spend the money for research, which we essentially don't require for anything useful, while the present state of technology will not allow to prolong the life-time of telescope and the reliability of its transport.
jsdarkdestruction
1 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2011
"which we essentially don't require for anything useful,"
please explain.
PosterusNeticus
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 14, 2011
I can't wait for the day when this magnificent instrument of science launches. Between JWST and the 30 and 42 -meter ground based telescopes, it's a fantastic time to be an astronomy geek.
rawa1
1 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2011
I can't wait for the day when this magnificent instrument of science launches. Between JWST and the 30 and 42 -meter ground based telescopes, it's a fantastic time to be an astronomy geek.

So you should pay for your entertainment. Anyway, I don't think, the JWST will ever leave the Earth.
Deesky
5 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011

My main problem with studying things at the very edge of the universe is "relevance". The area it will be studying is so huge and so far away that it would never ever scan more than a fraction of a thousandth of a percent of the sky in it's entire lifetime at that distance.

Not a problem as long as the Cosmological Principle continues to hold.
rawa1
1 / 5 (3) Sep 14, 2011
JWST could help in finding of massive objects outside of particle horizon of our Universe and to help in supporting of aether theory. Nevertheless, I'm afraid it's a huge price tag for findings, which can be deduced in much cheaper way from existing observations already. Of course, scientists aren't willing for it - or they would lost their jobs anyway. So that the JWST project continues, although it will be cancelled in near future, if it will not get some extra cash from human spaceflight funds.
Nikola
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011
Jesus Christ that is an amazing piece of technology!
mosahlah
1 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2011
physorg, I love your political commentary. After a few more rounds of bashing Republican's it should be time for the peanut gallery to go after the military? What says the infinitely smart people running their mouths in here?
Nanobanano
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011
Not a problem as long as the Cosmological Principle continues to hold.


You miss the point.

You can't even test the cosmological principle, since the amount of time it would take to do a sufficiently large survey at a sufficient resolution would take a couple hundred thousand years.
Deesky
5 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2011
You miss the point.

I doubt it.

You can't even test the cosmological principle, since the amount of time it would take to do a sufficiently large survey at a sufficient resolution would take a couple hundred thousand years.

It's been tested from a multitude of observations over many decades with increasing levels of accuracy.

Recently on this site there was an article with preliminary results which might go counter to this hypothesis, but nothing that's been confirmed, so the hypothesis still stands.
Nanobanano
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011
You miss the point.

I doubt it.

You can't even test the cosmological principle, since the amount of time it would take to do a sufficiently large survey at a sufficient resolution would take a couple hundred thousand years.

It's been tested from a multitude of observations over many decades with increasing levels of accuracy.

Recently on this site there was an article with preliminary results which might go counter to this hypothesis, but nothing that's been confirmed, so the hypothesis still stands.


Do you comprehend how freaking LITTLE of the universe has ever been looked at through a telescope?

Hubble deep fields and Ultra-deep fields are an insignificant drop in the bucket looking at one patheticly tiny patch of sky, when compared to a full spherical survey, and those each took several days of composite imagery to make...

That's about like if you took one grain of sand and said it was the same as all grains of sand on earth...
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011
"I can't wait for the day when this magnificent instrument of science launches." - Jawa

They had better hope that it doesn't fall into the ocean like the last several climate research satellites.
jsdarkdestruction
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
Did they solve a "hot pixels" problem?

A team at the University of Arizona in Tucson found in December that about 2% of pixels in a detector destined for JWST's Near Infrared Camera were transmitting signals although no light was hitting them. That's four times as many "hot pixels" as there were when the detector was analyzed in 2008. The researchers later found that the problem affects four of the camera's five long-wavelength detector arrays. NASA allows no more than 5% of a detector's pixels to be hot by the end of the telescope's five-year space mission. At this rate, the detectors may exceed this limit before the telescope even leaves the ground.

In addition, JWST is not a successor of Hubble at all, it will be able to run just a few months in the space, before its coolant will get depleted. IMO it's just another waste of tax payers money, not worth of its potential scientific contribution.

where did you hear that garbage?
rawa1
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
where did you hear that garbage?

Try to use Bing or Google - it points to recent NewScientist article:

http://www.newsci...ope.html

Apparently, the blind telescope cannot do serious research. Try to imagine situation, when 5% of pixels at your monitor screen would appear blind. The certificate of quality allows only 0.00003% of hot pixels for common monitor screens.

BTW This "garbage" already consumed additional 30 millions USD. You wouldn't pay it from your salary, I'd guess..

http://www.spacen...fix.html
rawa1
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
Finally, some good news for the Hubble space telescope's successor: a Senate subcommittee has approved a science appropriations bill today providing funds to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for the next fiscal year.

http://news.disco...914.html

"The Webb Telescope creates 2,000 jobs and will lead to the kind of innovation and discovery that have made America great," said Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski on her Senate website.

Well, these "save the jobs" motivations... The other NASA divisions will probably suffer with this decision anyway.
jsdarkdestruction
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
i should of been more specific, this part right here is garbage and wrong "In addition, JWST is not a successor of Hubble at all, it will be able to run just a few months in the space, before its coolant will get "
rawa1
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
Of course, JWST is short time investment. It cannot be compared with HST, which is running thirtytwo years in space already. The mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) will work at a temperature of 7 K (-447 degree F, -266 degree C), using a helium pulse-tube cooler and refrigerator (cryocooler system). The orbit is unstable, so jets are fired every few weeks to maintain it. The jets are also used to remove accumulated angular momentum of solar radiation pressure torques. Therefore the lifetime of JWST is limited by the amount of fuel used for maintaining the orbit and the loses of cryocoolant. In addition, JWST is not serviceable like Hubble, which runs at 600 km above Earth surface.

In general, JWST will only view a small portion of the infrared spectrum. 0.6 to 28 micrometers and it has a has different goals than Herschel or HST. It's not a true infrared space telescope, nor is it a true Hubble replacement telescope. It's main idea is to observe objects at opposite ends of spectrum.
rawa1
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
NASA says it will now cost $8.7bn to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 (which is the price tag comparable with LHC collider at CERN). An independent assessment last year suggested the telescope's total cost had ballooned from $3.5bn to $5bn, and that continued delays would inflate the final bill well beyond $6bn. In parallel with the price escalation, the probable launch date has slipped deeper and deeper into the decade with some commentators wondering whether JWST might not even be ready to fly this side of 2020.

http://www.bbc.co...14625362
jimmie
not rated yet Sep 18, 2011
this really sounds like a bad choice.
a Hubble 2 might have been a better decision,
if they were smart enough to make prints....this time.

Pete1983
not rated yet Sep 18, 2011
NASA says it will now cost $8.7bn to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 (which is the price tag comparable with LHC collider at CERN). An independent assessment last year suggested the telescope's total cost had ballooned from $3.5bn to $5bn, and that continued delays would inflate the final bill well beyond $6bn. In parallel with the price escalation, the probable launch date has slipped deeper and deeper into the decade with some commentators wondering whether JWST might not even be ready to fly this side of 2020.

http://www.bbc.co...14625362


It's worth noting that the blowout from 6 odd billion to 8.5 was mostly due to the earlier costings not including the running costs once the satellite was launched...