Assembly stand completed for James Webb Telescope flight optics

November 17, 2011
This is the Webb Telescope Ambient Optical Assembly Stand. Credit: NASA/Maggie Masetti

( -- The cleanroom at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. has received a giant structural steel frame that will be used to assemble the mirrors and instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope.

"This milestone is important as it marks the transition to the integration and testing phase for the Webb telescope's element," said Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard.

The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation and scientific successor to the . The most powerful space telescope ever built, Webb will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies ever formed and study planets around .

This timelapse video shows part of the AOAS construction process. (Credit: NASA Goddard)

The installation of the giant structural steel optical assembly stand was recently completed at Goddard by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif. and its teammate ITT Exelis, McLean, Va. Northrop Grumman is leading the design and development effort for the telescope under contract to Goddard.

"Due to the excellent efforts of our teammate ITT Exelis, we have completed each of the major elements of equipment required to complete the assembly of the optical flight telescope," said Scott Willoughby, Webb telescope vice president and program manager at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "With the near completion of the final cryotest for the last six flight mirror segments, we are making great progress on the program."

The U-shaped optical assembly stand is is 24 feet high, 52 feet wide and 41 feet long and weighs 139,000 pounds. Its purpose is to cradle the entire 3.7 metric ton optical telescope and install 18 individual 90 pound mirror segments and other components onto the telescope structure with better than one one-thousandth of an inch precision. The platform has been installed in Goddard's largest clean room where Northrop Grumman and ITT will assemble the telescope in late 2014.

ITT Exelis teammate JPW Companies in Syracuse, N.Y. built the massive structure. Two other ITT teammates supplied other elements of the assembly stand: Cranetech, Inc. designed and built the track system suspended above the stand and Progressive Machine and Design made the robotic arms attached to the track that install the mirror segments. The ITT Exelis team spent a year incrementally building and demonstrating the mirror installation equipment.

"The integration equipment is a critical piece of the Webb telescope program. Over the past three years, ITT Exelis has developed a risk reduction program to demonstrate the key elements of this equipment," said Rob Mitrevski, vice president and general manager, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems at ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems. "With the delivery of the assembly stand, all of the equipment is coming together in preparation for the assembly effort."

Explore further: NASA completes mirror polishing for James Webb Space Telescope

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