NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope backplane ready for mirror integration

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 21:00

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

Washington: The static load testing of the primary mirror backplane support structure (PMBSS) for NASA`s James Webb Space Telescope has been completed.

The successful testing of the backplane has moved the telecsope one step closer to its 2018 launch as planned by the NASA.

The Northrop Grumman Corporation and ATK of Magna, Utah, completed the testing. Following which, the structure was delivered to Northrop Grumman`s facilities in Redondo Beach, California.

Lee Feinberg, NASA’s Optical Telescope Element manager at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center said: “Static testing demonstrates the backplane has the structural integrity to withstand the forces and vibrations of launch and is the final test prior to starting the integration of the backplane with the rest of the telescope”.
The PMBBS is the stable platform that holds the telescope`s science instruments and the 18 beryllium mirror-segments while the telescope performs its task of looking into deep space.

Despite its huge size and complexity, the Web telescope backplane weighs “only” 988 kilos, making it one of the most lightweight precision-alignment truss structures ever designed and built. The primary mirror is considered to be the largest mirror in the telescope.

Once fully assembled and populated, the PMBSS will support a mission payload and instruments that weigh more than 7,300 pounds. With a full launch load, it will support the equivalent of 12 times its own weight.
"This is the largest, most complex cryogenically stable structure humans have ever built,” added Scott Texter, Optical Telescope Element manager for Northrop Grumman.

“Completion of the static testing verifies it can hold the weight it is designed to hold. Now the structural backbone of the observatory is officially verified and ready for integration.”

The next steps for the space telescope will see integration of the composite structures with the deployment mechanisms to create the overall Optical Telescope Element (OTE) structure, which will then be shipped to Goddard for integration with the mirrors. NASA and Northrop Grumman will perform cryogenic testing of the PMBSS structure after mirror integration is complete.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world`s next-generation space observatory and successor to NASA`s Hubble Space Telescope. The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.



First Published: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 21:00

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