NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has seen so many delays in recent memory that it’s not even funny, but assembly teams continue to march forward with the hope that the upcoming Hubble successor will officially launch in 2021 as planned.
In the latest move, NASA engineers wrapped the spacecraft bus and its integrated sunshield into a protective ‘mobile clean room’ that will ensure everything reaches its next destination without being contaminated with dirt, dust, or fingerprints along the way. While it may not seem like much, the components that comprise a space telescope are sensitive to such debris.
Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
As shown in the images, this mobile clean room is essentially a giant bag that seals the components of the James Webb Space Telescope from the outside world. We can gather that the supported bag in the picture is about as tall as a full-size school bus is long.
The inside of the bag is carefully prepared with clean, pressurized air before being installed over the space telescope components, and a small hole in the rear of the bag maintains positive pressure inside while preventing airflow from the front.
Citing one of NASA’s public statements, the mobile clean room gets much of its inspiration from clean tents and clean rooms that are routinely used in buildings. But the mobile clean room, just as the name implies, can be moved around along with its contents.
Speaking of being moved around, NASA prepared this giant mobile Christmas present to move the chassis to a facility where it can be pitted against thermal and vibration testing in a space-like vacuum setting.
Assuming it passes all the tests, engineers will re-wrap the chassis and return it to Northrop Grumman’s facility in Redondo Beach, California to integrate the chassis with the scientific components, bringing the James Webb Space Telescope one step closer to completion and launch.
Every step of manufacturing and preparing the James Webb Space Telescope is a meticulous and tedious process, but it should all be worth it once it reaches outer space to perform scientific observations. After all, it’s the most advanced space observatory ever built for astronomy, and it’s expected to reveal unseen details about the universe as we know it.