NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. The team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland recently completed installation of the telescope's primary mirror segment.
The completion marks a huge milestone for the James Webb Space Telescope team. NASA's Science Mission Directorate associate administrator John Grunsfeld said the almost perfect mirrors will enable Webb to focus light from realms and regions that were previously hidden as well as from the "very beginnings of the Universe."
"With the mirrors finally complete, we are one step closer to the audacious observations that will unravel the mysteries of the Universe," added Grunsfeld.
Each of Webb's mirrors is hexagonal-shaped that is a little over 4.2 feet tall. Each mirror weighs around 88 pounds. In space, the 18 hexagonal-shaped mirrors will function as one large mirror with a total diameter of 21.3 feet.
Goddard's optical telescope Element Manager Lee Feinberg added that the completion of Webb's primary mirror segment is definitely a milestone and the conclusion of over a decade's worth of development, testing, design and assembly.
Webb's Project Manager Bill Ochs said they will now install other optics and then proceed with the tests that will ensure all components can endure a rocket launch.
Colorado-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation built Webb's mirrors while Harris Corporation handled the installation. Harris Corporation's Universe Exploration Director Gary Matthews said that the Harris team will finish the installation of the aft optics assembly as well as Webb's secondary mirror. The Integrated Science Instrument Module, the telescope's heart, will then be installed.
A series of tests including vibration and acoustic will be conducted at Goddard. The cryogenic optical test will be conducted in Houston at the Johnson Space Center.
There are high expectations from Hubble Space Telescope's more powerful successor. The James Webb Space Telescope will be used to study other solar system formations that can support life. It will also be used to study our own solar system's evolution.
The Webb telescope is set to launch in 2018 on board the Ariane 5 rocket in French Guiana. NASA leads this international space project in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency.