A "Time Machine" to Help Scientists Study the Origins of Our Universe
As big as a tennis court and as tall as a four-story building, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has an equally imposing mission: to capture light emitted by objects more than 13.5 billion years ago so that scientists on Earth can further our understanding of the formation of stars, planetary systems, and even the origins of life.
The creation of the JWST has been a team effort, with L3Harris leading integration and testing for the telescope. L3Harris employees from our Rochester, New York facility recently finished installing the optics assemblies and mirrors onto the telescope structure inside the world’s largest clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Next, the assembly will go through environmental testing. “After acoustic, vibration, and other tests at Goddard, we will ship the system down to Johnson Space Center in Houston for an intensive cryogenic optical test to ensure everything is working properly,” explains Gary Matthews, director of Universe Exploration for L3Harris Space and Intelligence Systems.
In May 2016, the team finished the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) installation, bringing the project another step closer to completion. The ISIM is the heart of the telescope with its collection of cameras and spectrographs that will record light collected by JWST’s giant golden mirror.
The team also reached a major milestone in February when they installed the telescope's 18th and final primary golden mirror segment. The segments were placed on the telescope's backplane using a robotic arm, guided by team members. Each mirror segment measures just over 4.2 feet (1.3 meters) across and weighs approximately 88 pounds (40 kilograms). The 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) mirror.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. JWST is scheduled to launch in 2018 from French Guiana and will be located near the Earth–Sun L2 point which is 930,000 miles (1,500,000 kilometers) from Earth. The primary mirror will unfold and adjust to shape after launch, and is expected to have a mission lifetime of 5 to 10 or more years.