31st December 2015
James Webb Space Telescope mirror halfway complete
Inside a massive clean room in Greenbelt, Maryland, the ninth of 18 flight mirrors was installed onto the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) this week using a robotic arm. This marks the halfway completion point for the segmented primary mirror.
In recent weeks, a team of engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre have been working tirelessly to install the JWST's mirror segments onto the telescope structure. The first piece was fitted on 25th November, and this week it was announced that the ninth piece is now in place.
"The years of planning and practicing are really paying dividends and the progress is really rewarding for everyone to see," said Lee Feinberg, NASA's Optical Telescope Element Manager.
In these NASA images, a robotic arm can be seen lifting and lowering the hexagonal-shaped segments that each measure 4.2 feet (1.3 metres) across and weigh 88 pounds (40 kilograms). After being pieced together, these 18 primary mirror segments will combine to function as a single large 21.3-foot (6.5-metre) mirror. The full installation is expected to be complete in early 2016, with deployment scheduled for 2018.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope that was launched in 1990. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built – using near-infrared wavelengths to see the very first generation of stars that ignited after the Big Bang. The JWST is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.