NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has just reached an important milestone — passing pre-launch environmental tests. Media reported that the agency and its main contractor, Northrop Grumman, conducted weeks of acoustic and sine vibration tests on the assembled Weber Space Telescope to determine whether it could withstand the rigors of rocket launch and orbit.
Weber Space Telescope to be shipped to test facility (Photo: NASA / Chris Gunn)
As one of the simplest but actually crucial development steps, the Webb Space Telescope, a rocket payload, needs to be able not only to work steadily in the target environment, but also to withstand the noise and vibration of a rocket as it rushes out of the Earth’s atmosphere.
JWST is known to be the largest and most complex space telescope ever built. Its gilded main mirror measures 6.5 meters (21 feet) and is folded into 18 hexosomes with a diameter of 1.32 meters (4 feet) before being extended in space, and eventually operates at very low temperatures of -223.2 degrees C (-369.7 degrees F).
JWST is scheduled to fly aboard the Ariane 5 rocket to L2 Lagrange Point, 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth, in October 2021. Here, the gravity of the earth and the sun is balanced.
JWST Completes its Final Environmental Tests (via)
During the test, JWST was placed in Northrop Grumman’s acoustic test chamber, where it was tested with high-frequency oscillation sound pressures of more than 140 dB to simulate and evaluate the impact of rocket launches on its hardware, scientific instruments, structures, and electronics.
Immediately after, JWST was moved to another room to be tested on a low-frequency sine vibrator to simulate the expected effects of vertical and horizontal acceleration.
Finally, Northrop Grumman said they will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the five-layer sunshade, the main mirror deployment facility, and the entire system before packaging JWST to the south.