Ball Aerospace Accelerates Focusing Techniques on the James Webb Space Telescope
December 05, 2005
Ball Aerospace engineers, under contract to Northrop Grumman Space Technology, are now accelerating the development of an optical testbed that will simulate the focusing characteristics of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Scheduled to be completed by year-end, the one-sixth scale model of JWST's optical system is part of an effort to reduce risk in the program.
"The launch of this remarkable telescope is scheduled for 2013 but we are already applying our cutting-edge technology to the James Webb telescope," says David L. Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. "JWST will be the first space-based observatory to use actively controlled, segmented mirrors and our testbed telescope is designed to allow us to test this extensively on the ground."
The James Webb testbed telescope, housed at Ball Aerospace's Boulder, Colo. facilities, will aid engineers in developing and simulating the telescope's Wavefront Sensing and Control System used to align the mirrors in the optical system and provide fine-tuning of the focus. Actively controlled, segmented mirrors, like those found on the JWST, are the industry standard for large, ground-based telescopes. James Webb will be the first space-based telescope to use this segmented mirror architecture.
The optical system for the James Webb Space Telescope is unique in its large size and design. Ball Aerospace engineers designed the telescope's large primary mirror so that it could be folded into sections to fit into the launch vehicle then deployed in orbit.
The James Webb Space Telescope was designed to study infrared light from objects that formed in the beginning of the universe. The telescope is expected to study objects up to 400 times more faint than any ground or space-based telescope.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the James Webb Space Telescope, leading the design and development effort under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. As the principal optical subcontractor on the program, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is responsible for the telescope's sophisticated mirror system.
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