Progress on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Spacecraft

Northrop Grum­man Con­tin­ues to Make Progress on NASA’s James Webb Space Tele­scope Space­craft as Key Com­po­nent Com­pletes Design
REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — An impor­tant space­craft com­po­nent that will enable NASA’s James Webb Space Tele­scope to deliv­er clear images passed its Crit­i­cal Design Review at Northrop Grum­man Cor­po­ra­tion (NYSE:NOC). Now cleared for man­u­fac­tur­ing, it rep­re­sents an impor­tant step in the spacecraft’s progress. 

Act­ing as a sus­pen­sion sys­tem, the com­po­nent is a spi­der-shaped vibra­tion iso­la­tor with four flex­i­ble tubes made of graphite com­pos­ite. They are lined with mate­r­i­al that is designed to absorb vibra­tions. The iso­la­tor is seat­ed between the space­craft and the large tow­er that sup­ports the pri­ma­ry mirror. 

“The space­craft has mul­ti­ple mech­a­nisms that cause vibra­tion, such as spin­ning reac­tion wheels and the com­pres­sor on the cry­ocool­er for the Mid-Infrared Instru­ment,” explains Andy Cohen, Webb Space­craft man­ag­er, Northrop Grum­man Aero­space Sys­tems. “The key to pre­ci­sion align­ment and vibra­tion sup­pres­sion is that it keeps the tele­scope in the shad­ow of the sun­shield, where it must stay to oper­ate properly.” 

In space, there is no atmos­phere to slow vibra­tions down, so they last longer. In addi­tion, unlike warm com­po­nents, cold com­po­nents are more sus­cep­ti­ble to vibra­tions, so it is impor­tant to iso­late the cold tele­scope and instru­ments from this type of move­ment. The isolator’s job is to sup­press vibra­tion from the space­craft so that the mir­ror remains still and cap­tures clear images, sim­i­lar to the way a cam­era will take clear pho­tos as long as it’s held steady. 

With this review recent­ly com­plet­ed, the space­craft and its com­po­nents are mov­ing for­ward rapid­ly to sup­port a launch in late 2018. 

Northrop Grum­man is the prime con­trac­tor respon­si­ble for design­ing and devel­op­ing the tele­scope for NASA’s God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter, Green­belt, Md. 

Suc­ces­sor to the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope, the James Webb Space Tele­scope is the world’s next-gen­er­a­tion space obser­va­to­ry. It will be the most pow­er­ful space tele­scope ever built. Webb will observe the most dis­tant objects in the uni­verse, pro­vide images of the very first galax­ies ever formed and study plan­ets around dis­tant stars. The Webb Tele­scope is a joint project of NASA, the Euro­pean Space Agency and the Cana­di­an Space Agency. 

Northrop Grum­man is a lead­ing glob­al secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny pro­vid­ing inno­v­a­tive sys­tems, prod­ucts and solu­tions in aero­space, elec­tron­ics, infor­ma­tion sys­tems, and tech­ni­cal ser­vices to gov­ern­ment and com­mer­cial cus­tomers world­wide. Please vis­it for more information. 

CONTACT: Mary Blake
(310) 812‑6291

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