James Webb Space Telescope

Unprecedented Science 
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the most ambitious and complex space science observatory ever built, capable of detecting light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe and exploring planets around distant stars.

With unmatched sensitivity, Webb will study every phase of our cosmic history, from the first stars and galaxies that formed out of the darkness of the early universe, to the birth of planetary systems capable of supporting life, to the evolution of our own stellar neighborhood. Much like its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb will unlock discoveries scientists have yet to imagine.

Artist rendition of JWST
Artist rendition of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA
Six Webb mirrors in testing
James Webb primary mirrors

What we’re doing 

Optical Mirror System Provider

Ball designed and built the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system that will enable Webb to look 13.5 billion years back in time. Measuring approximately 6.5 meters (21.3 ft.), the primary mirror is comprised of 18 hexagonal mirror segments, each approximately 1.3 meters (4.2 ft.) wide. A set of cryogenic actuators is mounted on each segment to control individual mirror positioning and curvature radius within one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair.

In December 2013 we completed shipment of the finished mirrors to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. To date, all Ball Aerospace hardware has been delivered. We continue to support NASA through integration and test.

We also designed Webb’s mirror control electronics to operate in a deep-freeze cryogenic space environment.  These 22 one-of-a kind cryogenic electronic flight boxes are responsible for aligning the mirror segments on orbit so that they function as one mirror. Each box operates between -405.6 degrees F. (30K) and room temperature to multiplex signals from the warm control electronics to one mirror actuator at a time.

To develop, validate and demonstrate technologies used to develop Webb’s pioneering optical system, we drew on our in-depth experience with space hardware designed for all four of NASA's Great Observatories.

Contact Ball

Find out how our optical expertise can help you meet your mission goals.