The primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is planned to be deployed only once more on Earth, before being packaged for delivery to South America.
In a recent test, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully deployed its primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space.
As Webb progresses towards liftoff in 2021, technicians and engineers have been diligently checking off a long list of final tests the observatory will undergo before being packaged for delivery to French Guiana for launch. Performed in early March, this procedure involved commanding the spacecraft’s internal systems to fully extend and latch Webb’s iconic 21 feet 4-inch (6.5 meter) primary mirror, appearing just like it would after it has been launched to orbit. The observatory is currently in a cleanroom at Northrop Grumman Space Systems in Redondo Beach, California.
The difficulty and complexity of performing tests for Webb has increased significantly, now that the observatory has been fully assembled. Special gravity offsetting equipment was attached to Webb’s mirror to simulate the zero-gravity environment its mechanisms will have to operate in. Tests like these help safeguard mission success by physically demonstrating that the spacecraft is able to move and unfold as intended. The Webb team will deploy the observatory’s primary mirror only once more on the ground, just before preparing it for delivery to the launch site.