NANA’s $10 Billion James Webb Space Telescope Has Successfully Completed Testing

NASA’s  James Webb Space Telescope. Credit NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image LabAfter the successful conclusion of the final test, the James Webb Space Telescope is currently being prepared to be shipped into the space launch site. Engineering groups have completed the extensive, long-running testing schedule at Northrop Grumman’s facilities. Webb’s numerous tests and checkpoints were developed to ensure that the most complicated space-based observatory for science will function exactly as designed when launched into space.

After the observatory tests have been completed, shipping operations have started.

This includes all the required steps needed to prepare Webb to travel safely across the Panama Canal to its launch place at Kourou, French Guiana, located on the northern coast in South America. Since no further large-scale testing is needed, Webb’s cleanroom technicians have turned their attention from testing whether it can withstand the tough conditions of launch and operate on-orbit to making sure that it is safe on the pad. Webb’s technicians for contamination control, along with transport engineers and logistics task force, are all trained to tackle the challenging job of getting Webb on its way to the launchpad. Shipping preparations will be complete in September.

Webb Will Soon Be on its Way

“NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major turning point on its path toward launch with the completion of final observatory integration and testing,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We have a tremendously dedicated workforce who brought us to the finish line, and we are very excited to see that Webb is ready for launch and will soon be on that science journey.”

As shipping operations begin, Teams from Webb’s Mission Operations Center (MOC) located at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore will continue to test and check the intricate communication network used in space. Recently, the network proved the capability of efficiently sending commands to spacecraft. Rehearsals for launch are currently taking place in MOC. MOC to prep for the day of launch and even beyond.

There’s still a lot to be accomplished before launch. However, with integration and testing, the next big leap of NASA into the unknown of space will be in the works.

As integration and testing are officially completed for James Webb Space Telescope, the next NASA’s giant leap into the unknown is set to begin. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

When Webb is in French Guiana, launch processing teams will prepare the observatory for flight. The process involves checking the ship’s cargo to ensure that the observatory’s integrity isn’t compromised in transit, carefully filling the tanks for fuels of the spacecraft with hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer that it will require to fuel its rocket thrusters to keep its orbit intact, and removing remove before launch’ red-tag objects like protection covers to keep vital components in good condition during assembly, tests, and transportation. Before rolling onto its launchpad, engineers will join the launcher’s observatory, an Ariane 5 rocket provided by ESA (European Space Agency). Webb is an internationally-based project run by NASA and its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and Canada Space Agency. Canadian Space Agency.

James Webb Space Telescope is a marvel of human genius. It is even more impressive due to the difficulties Webb team members faced to create this great space science observatory. Earthquakes, as well as devastating hurricane wildfires, snowstorms, blizzards, and a global pandemic, are just a few of the challenges Webb’s team of experts Webb had to endure to achieve success. The Webb story is founded on endurance, which results from the hundreds of engineers, scientists, and other experts from 14 different states and countries across nine time zones.

“To me, the launch of Webb is a major moment in my life. I’ll feel elated, of course, in the event of its success; however, it will also be a moment of profound personal reflection. Twenty decades of my existence will be a matter of that one day,” said Mark Voyton, Webb observatory integration and test manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’ve made a lot of progress and have worked so hard together to get our observatory ready for flight. The telescope’s journey is beginning, and for us who were on the ground that constructed it, our period will soon come to an end, and we’ll get the chance to relax knowing that we’ve put everything online to ensure that our telescope is working. The bonds that we developed with one another during the journey will be cherished to the end of time.”

Launching NASA’s New Eye on the Cosmos

After launch, Webb will undergo an intense six-month commissioning process. After completing a 26-minute flight on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, Webb will be separated from the rocket, and its solar panel will be deployed in a sequence. Then, any subsequent deployments will be controlled by the ground control station located at STScI during the coming weeks. Webb will take a month to reach the orbital position it is aiming for in space that is nearly 1 million miles away from Earth in a gradual manner in the process. Sunshield deployments will start within a few days of launch. Ground control can manage each stage, giving Webb’s launch complete control to avoid any unexpected issues during deployment.

When the sunshield begins to open, the telescope and its instruments will go into the shade and begin cooling as time passes. In the coming weeks, crew members from the mission will carefully check the observatory’s cooling process. They will use heating elements to ease the stress on structures and instruments. While the primary mirror is in operation, the secondary mirror will be unfolded. As the main mirror begins to unfold, Webb’s instruments slowly get going, and thruster fires will place the observatory into a specified orbit.

After the observatory has cooled down and stabilized to its frigid operating temperature, several months of aligning its optics and calibrating its instruments for scientific research will occur. Research operations are expected to begin approximately six months after the launch.

“Flagship” missions like Webb are generational initiatives. Webb was based on the experience and legacy of previous missions, including those of Hubble and the Spitzer space telescopes. It will provide the basis on which future big astronomical space observatories could in the future be constructed.

“After completing the final steps of the James Webb Space Telescope’s testing regimen, I can’t help but see the reflections of the thousands of individuals who’ve dedicated so much of these lives to Webb each time I look at that beautiful gold mirror,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager for NASA Goddard.

The James Webb Space Telescope could be the world’s most prestigious space science observatory when it is launched in 2021. Webb will unravel mysteries within the solar system of our planet, gaze further into distant worlds surrounding different stars and investigate the mysterious structures and the origins of our universe as well as our place in it.

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