James Webb Space Telescope emerges successfully from final thermal vacuum test

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope emerges successfully from final thermal vacuum test
The James Webb Space Telescope's spacecraft element being prepared for entry into Northrop Grumman's large thermal vacuum chamber in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Northrop Grumman

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has successfully cleared another critical testing milestone, taking this ambitious observatory one step closer to its 2021 launch. The spacecraft has gone through its final thermal vacuum test meant to ensure that its hardware will function electronically in the vacuum of space, and withstand the extreme temperature variations it will encounter on its mission.

One half of the Webb observatory, known as the "spacecraft element," completed this testing at the facilities of Northrop Grumman, the mission's lead industrial partner, in Los Angeles. The other half of Webb, which consists of the telescope and science instruments, has already successfully completed its at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston prior to delivery at Northrop Grumman last year.

In the most recent major environmental , technicians and engineers locked the Webb spacecraft element inside a special thermal chamber. The testing team drained the atmosphere from the room to replicate the vacuum of space, and exposed the Webb spacecraft element to a wide range of hot and cold temperatures, spanning from minus 235 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 148 degrees Celsius) to a sweltering 215 degrees Fahrenheit (102 degrees Celsius). This variation of temperatures ensures the spacecraft will survive the extreme conditions it will actually experience in space.

The spacecraft element consists of the "bus," which is the equipment that actually flies the observatory in space, plus the revolutionary five-layer tennis-court-size sunshield that will keep Webb's sensitive optics and instruments in the shade, and at their required super-cold operating temperatures. The spacecraft element is imperative to the success of Webb's scientific goals, and must be thoroughly tested and validated for flight.

  • NASA's James Webb Space Telescope emerges successfully from final thermal vacuum test
    Technicians and engineers needed to take special precautions when preparing, and transporting Webb's spacecraft element for entry into Northrop Grumman's environmental testing chambers. Credit: Northrop Grumman
  • NASA's James Webb Space Telescope emerges successfully from final thermal vacuum test
    Webb's spacecraft being lifted into Northrop Grumman's thermal vacuum chamber for environmental testing to ensure that its hardware will function in the vacuum of space. Credit: Northrop Grumman

With the completion of this latest thermal vacuum test, all of Webb's components have been exposed to the varied conditions that they will encounter during launch, and while in orbit a million miles away from Earth.

"The teams from Northrop Grumman and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center are to be commended for a successful spacecraft thermal vacuum test, dedicating long hours to get where we are now," said Jeanne Davis, program manager for the James Webb Space Telescope Program. "This incredible accomplishment paves the way for the next major milestone, which is to integrate the telescope and the spacecraft elements."

The next steps will be to join both halves of Webb to form the fully assembled observatory and complete a final round of deployments, testing and evaluation prior to launch. A full deployment of the element will verify that Webb is ready to proceed to the launch site.


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May 30, 2019
My concern is that JWT will be technologically out of date by the time it it's the skies...

May 30, 2019
My concern (shared by some pioneers of satellite and cosmic image & range sensing technologies) is about stated JWST objectives, such as new proofs of recent GR/QM based mistakes about Dark Energy/Matter to 'confirm' recent Nobel level mistakes to model SN1a, Gravitational Wave and other non-local energy frame data. These mistakes in physics foundations were found in the unified GR/QM theory of Dynamic Universe since 1970's with a break-through in mid 1990's. It prompted Suntola's DU books and annual publications of conference and seminar papers especially after 1998 SN1a data were shared for testing by the corrected GR/QM models of DU. My mentors/pioneers in space-age photogrammetry (Apollo program) and geodesy (including GPS and Earth gravity mapping) attempted to get some R&D for image mapping of our Solar/galaxy system neighborhood in the fashion of Gaia mission. I continued these futile efforts based on HST and its predecessor experiences - no or little gain.

May 30, 2019
@anon, if these theories are mistakes, then JWT will fail to confirm them, and the mistaken nature of the theories will come to light.

What is the problem?

May 30, 2019
My concern is that JWT will be technologically out of date by the time it it's the skies.
That is certainly true, but essential to long duration exploration.

Joe Haldeman illustrates it well in his *Forever War* as the warriors carry their contemporary technology thousands of years into their future to battle with opponents also equipped with their contemporary technology but not traveling so far.

May 31, 2019
@cowlinator, the biased GR/QM model can fit or predict observables nearly as well as the unbiased DU model by adding more auxiliary parameters to compensate for systematic errors of its flawed trend function. GR model for 1998 SN1a data required auxiliary parameters of Dark Energy/Matter densities to compensate flaws caused by postulates of constant c with distorted time and distance concepts. The unbiased physical DU model could directly fit the bolometric observed values without auxiliary biased parameters. The GR epicycle explanation of DE/DM for SN1a data was awarded 2011 Nobel and similar mistakes were continued in interpretation of 2017 Nobel awarded GW data. Galileo times are here again as the stated GW and JWT objectives appear to 'prove GR right'. JWT may claim DE to exist - even after DE is already proven to be a biased GR epicycle using general loop inverse Theory of estimation (Toe) since 1970's.

May 31, 2019
JWT may claim DE to exist - even after DE is already proven to be a biased GR epicycle using general loop inverse Theory of estimation (Toe) since 1970's
My god you're wordy. Hardware can never 'claim' anything. Adding more evidence to the pile is never a bad thing. Are you thinking that this hardware will be collecting the wrong kind of evidence? It seems pretty generic to me.

"Hubble can see light that ranges from about 200 nm to 2.4 microns. Webb will see about 600 nm to 28 microns. (Visible light ranges about 700 - 400 nm; Webb will be able to see in the red/orange part of the visible light spectrum.)"

"The primary difference between Webb and Herschel is wavelength range: Webb goes from 0.6 to 28.5 microns; Herschel went from 60 to 500 microns."

-Sounds like incremental steps to fill in gaps based on available tech.

May 31, 2019
Originally JWT was supposed to be in orbit in 2018, then put off to 2019, & now 2021.

May 31, 2019
" JWT may claim DE to exist" = USERS of JWT may claim DE to exist - like users of LIGO may think that they are detecting GW when the strain resolution of -1.15 10^-21/ms is reached in side-band circulation. This is the limit where the uniform 3-D gravitational pull is compensated (making residual strain observations exposed for local disturbances of CME, solar wind etc.) by the two LIGO interferometric vacuum tubes due to the DU energy balance principle of decelerating expansion C4 of Riemann 4-radius R4. The GR based users of 1998 SN1a data were unaware of mistaken "Planck dilution" where the DU based energy of emitted light some B yrs ago was 1/(1+z) times stronger than the assumed standard GR based model. Another GR based error factor of 1/(1+z) was caused by the distorted cosmic time and distance concepts of GR/QM on the optical distance D of the emitter.

May 31, 2019
Correction: The DU based prediction is (1+z) times stronger than GR Planck diluted prediction by the factor of 1/(1+z). Thus the GR "trend function" prediction is 1/(1+z)^2 times too faint requiring the auxiliary or 'epicycle' compensation terms of DE/DM densities to match the observed values, especially for large z of distant emitters. This explains why recent Cepheid and SN1a data of Gaia and HST data provide inconsistent Hubble constants for small vs large z values, thereby further speeding the GR based DE speculation of 1998 SN1a data about accelerated expansion of C4 vs. the correct DU based deceleration rate of -1.15 10^-21/ms = the strain resolution limit for LIGO/VIRGO GW detection.

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