NASA has announced that its team successfully completed a critical milestone in testing the James Webb Space Telescope. The testing confirmed that the telescope would respond to commands once in space. The test is known as the Ground Segment Test. The special test marks the first time commands to power on, and testing scientific instruments aboard the telescope have been sent to the fully assembled observatory.
NASA says that being able to communicate with the telescope is critically important to its mission and that tests such as these are part of its comprehensive regime to ensure that all observatory components will function in space. The test demonstrated the complete end-to-end flow from planning the science Webb will perform to posting scientific data to its community archive.
NASA researchers note that this was the first time they have tested both the actual Web flight hardware and ground system together. The test was fully successful and in-to-end operational. During the test, the team sent commands to sequentially turn on, move, and operate each of Webs for main scientific instruments. The commands were all relayed from the Mission operations center, and during the test, the researchers treated the telescope as if it were in orbit.
To run the test, the team connects the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network, an international array of radio antennas used to communicate with multiple spacecraft. Since Web isn’t yet in orbit, commands were relayed through a Deep Space Network emulator that Saturday Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California.
The Webb telescope project has seen delays things to the coronavirus pandemic. Things are moving along nicely, and the recent tests required a team of about 100 people to perform.