NASA's James Webb Space Telescope passes key tests
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has now survived all of the harsh conditions associated with a rocket launch to space, ahead of its much anticipated October 2021 launch.
The US space agency recently pushed back the target for the launch of its next great space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, from March 2021 to October 2021.
Webb's recent tests have validated that the fully assembled observatory will endure the deafening noise, and the jarring shakes, rattles and vibrations that the observatory will experience during liftoff, NASA said on Tuesday.
Known as "acoustic" and "sine-vibration" testing, NASA has worked carefully with its international partners to match Webb's testing environment precisely to what Webb will experience both on launch day, and when operating in orbit.
Though each component of the telescope has been rigorously tested during development, demonstrating that the assembled flight hardware is able to safely pass through a simulated launch environment is a significant achievement for the mission.
Completed in two separate facilities within Northrop Grumman's Space Park in Redondo Beach, California, these tests represent Webb's final two, in a long series of environmental tests before Webb is shipped to French Guiana for launch.
The next environment Webb will experience is space.
"The successful completion of our observatory environmental tests represent a monumental milestone in the march to launch," said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"Environmental testing demonstrates Webb's ability to survive the rocket ride to space, which is the most violent portion of its trip to orbit approximately a million miles from earth."
Webb is now scheduled to move forward into the last full extension of its iconic primary mirror and sunshield followed by a full systems evaluation before being encapsulated in a specialised shipping container for transport to South America.
NASA says that the James Webb Space Telescope is the world's largest, most powerful, and complex space science telescope ever built.
It is designed to help in solving the mysteries of our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mystifying structures and origins of our universe.