Today NASA announced that the telescope portion of the James Webb Telescope has finally been completed after 20 years of development.
They announced this at the Goddard Space Flight Center, where NASA has been assembling the telescope, they have now completed the telescope’s optics and they are ready to perform a series of rigorous preflight tests ahead of its scheduled launch in 2018.
When it does launch, James Webb will be the largest and most powerful space telescope in operation, which will allow NASA to see deeper into space and observe galaxies that were formed after the Big Bang.
To do that, James Webb will use infrared, which will be gathered by the telescope’s 18 hexagonal mirrors, which have been built with lightweight beryllium and have been coated with a layer of gold that is 1,000 times thinner than a width of human hair.
But before they launch it, NASA wants to be sure that the James Webb Space Telescope can do its job properly when it is in space, to figure that out they will conduct a host of vibrational and acoustic testing that has been designed to mimic what the vehicle will experience during the launch of the telescope.
Once that has been completed, NASA will test the mirror’s optics.
If the telescope should pass all of those tests, it will be shipped to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Housten where it will undergo cryogenic testing, then it will be shipped to Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Calfornia, where it will be integrated with the rest of the spacecraft and the sun shield, and then tested once again.
After all that, it will be shipped by boat to French Guiana for its launch on top of the European Ariane 5 rocket.
This has been many years in the making so it is certainly awesome to see it progress, we look forward to its hopeful launch in 2018.