NASA engineers testing Webb telescope's OSIM and BIA instruments

Apr 12, 2012 by Rob Gutro
Credit: NASA Goddard/Chris Gunn

(Phys.org) -- Several critical items related to NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope are being tested in the giant thermal vacuum test chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

These photos show the OTE ( Element) Simulator or OSIM wrapped in a silver blanket on a platform, being lowered down into a (called the Space Environment Simulator, or SES) by a crane to be tested to withstand the cold temperatures of space.

The OSIM simulates the Webb telescope for the purposes of testing the science instruments that will fly on the observatory. The OSIM itself will never fly into space, but it is a vital part of the testing program to verify that the science cameras and spectrographs will function as planned.

The actual telescope known as the OTE is the eye of the James Webb Space . The OTE will gather the light coming from space and provide it to the Webb's science instruments. Webb needs a large mirror to collect as much light as possible to see galaxies from the and to detect other faint astronomical sources.

Credit: NASA Goddard/Chris Gunn

A second piece of equipment called the Beam Image Analyzer (BIA) will shortly be mounted on top of the OSIM for the cryo-vacuum test. The BIA incorporates a number of sensors that are used to verify the quality of the OSIM simulation of the OTE. Once the fidelity of the OSIM as an OTE surrogate has been confirmed by the upcoming cryo-test, the next use of the OSIM will be next year, when the mounted in the Integrated (ISIM) will go into the test chamber, to be fed by the OSIM , for critical focus and alignment checks at .

The ISIM is one of three major elements that comprise the Webb Observatory flight system. It will house the four main instruments that will detect light from distant , and planets orbiting other stars. The structure is like a chassis in a car providing support for the engine and other components.

The upcoming careful and exacting testing of the OSIM and BIA "stand-ins" is essential as it helps to ensure that this complex mission will be successful and will perform in the harsh environment of space.

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Space Environment Simulator (SES) is a big vacuum chamber where scientists and engineers cryo-tested the OSIM and BIA and lowered the temperature of the structures to 42 Kelvin (-384.1 Fahrenheit or -231.1 Celsius) and below to ensure that it can withstand the frigid temperatures of space.

Test articles are loaded through the top of the chamber using the building bridge crane. Smaller test articles, personnel, and equipment enter through a side door at the chamber. Randy Kimble, Integration and Test Project Scientist for the at NASA's Goddard noted, "Another critical set of equipment for this test is a pair of precise cameras on a rotating boom, which hang from the ceiling of the thermal shroud inside the chamber; these cameras provide precise positional measurements to further confirm the fidelity of the OSIM simulation of the optical output of the OTE."

Explore further: Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

More information: www.jwst.nasa.gov/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

20 hours ago

(Phys.org) —As it soared past Saturn's large moon Titan recently, NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

Is space tourism safe or do civilians risk health effects?

23 hours ago

Several companies are developing spacecraft designed to take ordinary citizens, not astronauts, on short trips into space. "Space tourism" and short periods of weightlessness appear to be safe for most individuals ...

An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

Oct 30, 2014

Sputnik was launched more than 50 years ago. Since then we have seen missions launched to Mercury, Mars and to all the planets within the solar system. We have sent a dozen men to the moon and many more to ...

NASA image: Sunrise from the International Space Station

Oct 30, 2014

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman posted this image of a sunrise, captured from the International Space Station, to social media on Oct. 29, 2014. Wiseman wrote, "Not every day is easy. Yesterday was a tough one. ...

Copernicus operations secured until 2021

Oct 30, 2014

In a landmark agreement for Europe's Copernicus programme, the European Commission and ESA have signed an Agreement of over €3 billion to manage and implement the Copernicus 'space component' between 2014 ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rwinners
not rated yet Apr 13, 2012
Ok... other than the fact that nothing can see any matter at great distances since science tells us that that matter is now moving at speeds aproaching that of light, relative to us.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.