NOV 21, 2017 7:59 AM PST

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Completes Cryogenic Testing

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is well on its way to succeeding the Hubble Space Telescope as one of the most powerful space observatories ever launched, but not without a plethora of tests to guarantee long-term reliability after it reaches space.

One of the most recent of such tests involved packing the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope inside of NASA’s historic Chamber A in Houston, Texas, where it endured several weeks of cryogenic testing and a primary mirror alignment test to ensure that it could hold up to a cold and airless outer space environment.

NASA opens the door of the Chamber A, the place where the James Webb Space Telescope spent months in cryogenic testing.

Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

NASA officially brought the cryogenic testing to an end on November 18th, which meant opening the chamber’s massive 40-ton vacuum-sealed door and exposing the James Webb Space Telescope’s guts to the Earth's natural climate once more.

"After 15 years of planning, chamber refurbishment, hundreds of hours of risk-reduction testing, the dedication of more than 100 individuals through more than 90 days of testing, and surviving Hurricane Harvey, the OTIS cryogenic test has been an outstanding success," noted project manager Bill Ochs from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt in Maryland.

"The completion of the test is one of the most significant steps in the march to launching Webb."

Related: Take a gander at the James Webb Space Telescope's massive primary mirror

The James Webb Space Telescope utilizes the infrared light spectrum to observe distant objects in space, so keeping it cold is imperative to prevent unwanted interference in its data. The simulated outer space environment inside of Chamber A helped scientists validate that the James Webb Space Telescope’s equipment will operate as expected in space-like conditions.

When in space, the James Webb Space Telescope will operate around -387º Fahrenheit, but one part of the unit known as the mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) will need to be kept even colder for proper operation. The James Webb Space Telescope comes equipped with a cryocooler that will maintain this part’s temperature at approximately -447º Fahrenheit.

Being that the James Webb Space Telescope passed some of the most critical tests with flying colors already, it will move on to complete assembly and a few additional tests before preparing for launch in the Spring of 2019 (delayed from the original estimate of 2018).

As you can probably imagine, astronomers are getting antsy to use the James Web Space Telescope to its full potential after it launches. Not only can it help validate several curious findings made by Hubble previously, but it also should open the door to a new age of space observation.

The James Webb Space Telescope could reveal some of the deepest and darkest secrets about our universe that we have yet to discover; this, folks, is why science rocks.

Source: NASA

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.
You May Also Like
OCT 13, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 13, 2019
NASA and SpaceX Reevaluate Commercial Crew Timeline
It appeared that there was recently some tension between NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk regarding the American space agency&rs...
NOV 04, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 04, 2019
What You Need to Know About NASA's Upcoming WFIRST Space Telescope
There are several space telescopes observing the cosmos at the very time of this writing, and there are plans to launch even more of them in the near futur...
NOV 10, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 10, 2019
Starlink Aims to Provide Cutting-Edge Worldwide Internet Access
Almost everyone has heard by now that Elon Musk wants to launch well over 40,000 new satellites into space to deliver high-speed and low-latency internet t...
NOV 26, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 26, 2019
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is as Powerful as it is Captivating
Jupiter is the largest known planet in our solar system, but even that isn’t the gas giant’s most discernible feature – that title belong...
DEC 23, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 23, 2019
Why NASA's Artemis Mission is So Important
If you’ve been following NASA, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the American space agency’s Artemis mission. Artemis is all about laun...
JAN 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 06, 2020
How Much Do You Know About Mars?
Humankind is getting closer to the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars for scientific research, and then eventually colonization later down the line. B...
Loading Comments...