DEC 29, 2016 10:26 AM PST

The James Webb Space Telescope Recently Had a Technical Mishap

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is supposed to be NASA’s next major step forward from the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing astronomers to see oodles further into the seemingly-infinite spatial heavens above us.

An artist's impression of the James Webb Space Telescope, set for launch in 2018.

Image Credit: NASA

Equipped with a larger primary mirror and much more sensitive equipment, it will help us to better study distant star systems and their exoplanets, as well as observe clouds of space dust and all kinds of other hard-to-study pieces of nature.

On the other hand, delays and budget restraints have pushed the JWST launch as far back as 2018, which isn’t far in the future, but is much later than originally planned. And now that things are finally coming together, it just wouldn’t be the JWST without yet another issue in the making…

According to NASA, the JWST was undergoing vibration testing on December 3rd to simulate the harsh conditions it would undergo when being launched on a rocket. This testing was put in place to make sure that the components on the JWST would hold together and that the equipment onboard would keep its cool during all of it.

On the other hand, the accelerometers on the JWST reportedly gave engineers anomalous readings that they weren’t expecting during the vibration tests, suggesting that there may have been some technical difficulties with the project’s onboard equipment.

Fortunately, however, all seems to have not been a waste after all, as engineers are methodically going through the troubleshooting process to ensure that things are calibrated and in working order.

According to a follow-up statement by NASA on December 23rd, the team has made great progress, both visually and ultrasonically, in determining that equipment onboard the JWST are still sound regardless of the anomalous readings.

Two low vibration tests have already taken place, and once this anomalous investigation is completed, more vibration testing will be able to continue next month (January) to ensure things are alright.

While it looked like a close one for the JWST, things might still be on schedule for that 2018 launch. On the other hand, we have a feeling that this might just be one of the glitchiest space telescopes we have ever sent into space…

Source: NASA, Ars Technica

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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