NASA says James Webb Telescope passed tests proving it can handle space

Brittany A. Roston - Oct 6, 2020, 6:45pm CDT
NASA says James Webb Telescope passed tests proving it can handle space

Being launched into space isn’t a gentle process, which is why NASA tests its machinery before sending it beyond our planet. The space agency has announced the completion of its James Webb Telescope environmental testing, which ensures the device will be able to endure the intense vibration, noise, rattling, and other disturbances that will occur when it finally lifts off.

NASA announced the achievement on Tuesday, calling the successful completion a ‘monumental milestone’ for the project. The space agency says that it worked closely with experts from overseas to ensure the environmental testing matches the precise experiences the James Webb Telescope will undergo when it launches and when it eventually reaches space and enters orbit.

The environmental testing is officially known as sine-vibration and acoustic testing; it involves subjecting the fully assembled space telescope to harsh shakes, vibrations, and ‘deafening noise,’ among other things. NASA notes that each and every component used to construct the telescope were individually tested, but this latest series of tests have demonstrated that the hardware holds up when assembled together.

The James Webb Telescope project manager at NASA, Bill Ochs, said in a statement:

The successful completion of our observatory environmental tests represent a monumental milestone in the march to launch. Environmental testing demonstrates Webb’s ability to survive the rocket ride to space, which is the most violent portion of its trip to orbit approximately a million miles from earth. The multinational group of individuals responsible for the execution of the acoustic and vibration test is composed of an outstanding and dedicated group of folks who are typical of the entire Webb team.

Testing the telescope involved shielding it from the outside world, then subjecting it to more than 140 decibels tuned to simulate the Ariane 5 rocket’s unique signature. Following that, another series of tests subjected the telescope to low-frequency vibrations akin to the ones that will be experienced during liftoff.

With the environmental testing completed successfully, NASA says the next step in the project will involve a final complete extension of the sun shield and primary mirror. Assuming that goes as planned, the team will then evaluate the entire space telescope before packaging it up to ship for eventual launch.

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