NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has aced another critical test, this time to evaluate its ability to perform its role in the vacuum of space.
On Thursday, May 30, the U.S. space agency announced that the upcoming successor to the Hubble Space Telescope has completed its final thermal vacuum test.
"The teams from Northrop Grumman and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center are to be commended for a successful spacecraft thermal vacuum test, dedicating long hours to get where we are now," stated Jeanne Davis, the program manager behind the observatory.
Northrup Grumman is NASA's lead industrial partner for the project.
One Step Closer To Launch
During the most recent environmental test, the space observatory was placed inside a special thermal vacuum chamber. The technicians and engineers removed the atmosphere from the chamber to replicate the vacuum of space. Then, they exposed the telescope to extremely hot and extremely cold temperatures ranging from -235 degrees Fahrenheit to 215 degrees Fahrenheit.
This, according to NASA, will determine whether the hardware of the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to withstand temperature variations it will encounter throughout its mission.
One-half of the observatory — the spacecraft element — completed testing at the facilities of Northrup Grumman. Meanwhile, the other half, which consists of the telescope and science instrument, has undergone testing at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The next step will be to connect both halves of the powerful observatory together. The space agency said that the James Webb Space Telescope, which is said to be the largest and most complex space telescope ever, will still have to undergo a final round of testing and evaluation before launch.
NASA Sets Launch Date For James Webb Space Telescope
After a series of issues and delays, NASA has committed to launching the James Webb Space Telescope on March 30, 2021. The observatory, originally conceived in 1996, has been in development for the past two decades.
"The more we learn more about our universe, the more we realize that Webb is critical to answering questions we didn't even know how to ask when the spacecraft was first designed," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement last year. "Webb is poised to answer those questions, and is worth the wait."