Closer to Liftoff: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Passes Milestone Tests

It is now almost ready to experience a rocket launch!
Fabienne Lang
James Webb Space TelescopeNASA

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is going to help the space agency look for faraway galaxies that were formed in the early universe

Before it can do so, however, it has to go through a number of rigorous tests. Its latest accomplishment is the environmental testing, the latest in a series of milestone tests of the telescope. 

Since passing this test, the telescope is now fit to undergo a rocket launch up into space. 


Testing to its limits

Tuesday, October 6th was a great day for the James Webb Space Telescope. The space observatory successfully managed to withstand the "deafening noise, the jarring shakes, rattles, and vibrations that the observatory will experience during takeoff," per NASA's press release.

This set of tests is called "acoustic" and "sine-vibration" testing, and it proves whether or not the entire assembled hardware of Webb could go through liftoff. Separate parts of Webb were tested over the past months, but this all-in-one test was one of the milestone ones for its successful launch. 

Soon up for Webb: space

This is how they did the testing:

Bill Ochs, Webb project manager for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, explained, "Environmental testing demonstrates Webb’s ability to survive the rocket ride to space, which is the most violent portion of its trip to orbit approximately a million miles from earth."

Testing involved encapsulating all of the telescope in a moveable clean room, where it was then guided to an acoustic testing chamber. It withstood sounds above pressure levels of 140 decibels, with specific acoustic sounds tuned to the Ariane 5 rocket—which is the rocket that will launch Webb into space. 

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It then underwent low-frequency vibration testing, the frequency experienced during liftoff, before continuing on to myriad more tests by the international team in charge of the project.

"The testing team is an international consortium of structural dynamics experts who are the lead engineers for each piece of hardware on the observatory. The team members are located throughout the USA and Europe, spanning across 9 time zones!," said Sandra Irish, Webb Mechanical Systems Structures Engineer Lead for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

What's next?

The next steps Webb will go through are fully extending its primary mirror and windshield, followed by a full systems evaluation, before it is then transported to South America, per NASA.

As of today, the James Webb Space Telescope is the "world's largest, most powerful, and complex space science telescope ever built." 

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