NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Has Been Assembled for First Time

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Has Been Assembled for First Time
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, post-integration, inside Northrop Grumman’s cleanroom facilities in Redondo Beach, California.  Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – The two major halves of NASA’s mammoth James  Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have been mechanically assembled together for the first time by prime contractor Northrop Grumman – marking a major milestone on the path to launch in Spring 2021.

Engineers at Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach, California facility carefully and methodically combined the science instrument and telescope module element, which includes the 18 golden mirrors, with the spacecraft element which includes the spacecraft bus and sunshade – last month. 

“Reaching a major milestone, engineers have successfully connected the two halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope for the first time at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California,” NASA said in a statement in late August.

“The most powerful and complex space telescope ever created by humankind has achieved its final form as a fully assembled observatory.”

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, post-integration, inside Northrop Grumman’s cleanroom facilities in Redondo Beach, California.  Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

Engineers used a crane to combine both halves of Webb by carefully lifting the telescope unit above the already-combined sunshield and spacecraft and then carefully guided it into place “ensuring that all primary points of contact were perfectly aligned and seated properly.”

The next step is to complete the electrical connections between the two halves and then test the electrical connections of the combined observatory assembly. 

Thereafter the now fully assembled Webb must still undergo additional environmental and deployment testing to ensure mission success and make sure that repairs of sunshade tears are completed and verified. 

The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures (UPSs) that fold up around the telescope for launch, are seen partially deployed to an open configuration to enable telescope installation.  Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

I observed JWST many times while under construction at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, MD. 

This photo shows the science instrument/mirror module in the Goddard cleanroom after installation of the 18 primary mirrors was completed.  

The 18-segment gold coated primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is raised into vertical alignment in the largest clean room at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Nov. 2, 2016.The secondary mirror mount booms are folded down into stowed for launch configuration.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Each of the 18 hexagonal-shaped primary mirror segments measures just over 4.2 feet (1.3 meters) across and weighs approximately 88 pounds (40 kilograms).  They are made of beryllium, gold coated and about the size of a coffee table.

The Webb Telescope is a joint international collaborative project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency  (CSA).  

Integration teams carefully guide Webb’s suspended telescope section into place above its Spacecraft Element just prior to integration.  Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

Webb is designed to look at the first light of the Universe and will be able to peer back in time to when the first stars and first galaxies were forming.  It will also study the history of our universe and the formation of our solar system as well as other solar systems and exoplanets, some of which may be capable of supporting life on planets similar to Earth. 

The 18-segment gold coated primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is raised into vertical alignment in the largest clean room at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Nov. 2, 2016.The secondary mirror mount booms are folded down into stowed for launch configuration.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

California is Webb’s last assembly and testing spot before the completed telescope is shipped toits launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

NASA is aiming for a March 30, 2021 launch target of the $9 Billion observatory – pending the outcome of the final assembly and testing of the massive observatory at Northrup Grumman.

JWST is the largest, most powerful and most complex space telescope ever built. It will serve as the scientific successor to NASA’s world famous andphenomenally successful Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

It will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket, folded up like origami inside the nose  cone. 

Ken Kremer/Space UpClose reflecting in the golden mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope which will peer back 13.5 Billion years to unravel the mysteries of the formation of the early Universe and tell us how our place in the Universe came to be.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Watch this space for my ongoing reports on JWST mirrors, science, construction and testing. 


Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Sep 21: 1 PM:
American Space Museum
, 308 Pine Street, Titusville, Florida. 

“Exploring Mars and the Search for life – 3D” – Learn all about NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover illustrated with Ken’s custom created Mars rover panoramas from Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity and up close clean room and launch pad views. Free and open to public.  Ken’s Space/Rocket/Mars imagery for sale to support his outreach

Website: http://spacewalkoffame.org/event/museum-day-2019
http://spacewalkoffame.org/
www.americanspacemuseum.org

Sep 20: 7 PM 
Launch update and Sep 21 Mars rover talk preview. Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL

Oct 15:
AIAA, Columbia, SC. Details upcoming

“Exploring Mars and the Search for life – 3D” – Learn all about NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover illustrated with Ken’s custom created Mars rover panoramas from Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity and up close clean room and launch pad views.

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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