It won’t be long before NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope is launched into space, but ahead of that event comes a final cryogenic test. The space agency has detailed this test, saying it is taking place at the Johnson Space Center following a long and careful transport process from the Goddard Space Flight Center. The test, once it is fully underway, will last for about 100 days before wrapping up.
The telescope and its various optics will be exposed to extreme conditions out in space, where NASA says it will ultimately travel about a million miles from our own planet. These conditions involve both a vacuum and extremely cold temperatures, and so to prepare for that — and test whether the optics will hold up — NASA is using a chamber to simulate these conditions.
This test, which will subject the telescope to a cryogenic-vacuum, will take place in the Johnson Space Center’s Chamber A, a testing chamber notable for having once been used with the Apollo spacecraft. The entire James Webb Space Telescope will be tested in this special chamber, a sort of end of the road that will mark success if completed without any issues.
Assuming everything goes as planned, the telescope will be packed back up and taken to California, where it will be assembled for the last time. Following that assembly and related testing, NASA will launch the observatory in 2018. Once launched, James Webb Space Telescope will become the most advanced space observatory ever in operation.