Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA's Webb Telescope completes mirror-coating milestone

Date:
September 19, 2011
Source:
NASA
Summary:
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major milestone in its development. The mirrors that will fly aboard the telescope have completed the coating process at Quantum Coating Inc. in Moorestown, N.J. The telescope's mirrors have been coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold, selected for its ability to properly reflect infrared light from the mirrors into the observatory's science instruments. The coating allows the Webb telescope's "infrared eyes" to observe extremely faint objects in infrared light.

The first six flight ready James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror segments are prepped to begin final cryogenic testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major milestone in its development. The mirrors that will fly aboard the telescope have completed the coating process at Quantum Coating Inc. in Moorestown, N.J.

The telescope's mirrors have been coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold, selected for its ability to properly reflect infrared light from the mirrors into the observatory's science instruments. The coating allows the Webb telescope's "infrared eyes" to observe extremely faint objects in infrared light. Webb's mission is to observe the most distant objects in the universe.

"Finishing all mirror coatings on schedule is another major success story for the Webb telescope mirrors," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element manager for the Webb telescope at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "These coatings easily meet their specifications, ensuring even more scientific discovery potential for the Webb telescope."

The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 mirror segments working together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. The mirror segments are made of beryllium, which was selected for its stiffness, light weight and stability at cryogenic temperatures. Bare beryllium is not very reflective of near-infrared light, so each mirror is coated with about 0.12 ounce of gold.

The last full size (4.9-foot /1.5-meter) hexagonal beryllium primary mirror segment that will fly aboard the observatory recently was coated, completing this stage of mirror production.

The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Mirror manufacturing began eight years ago with blanks made out of beryllium, an extremely hard metal that holds its shape in the extreme cold of space where the telescope will orbit. Mirror coating began in June 2010. Several of the smaller mirrors in the telescope, the tertiary mirror and the fine steering mirror, were coated in 2010. The secondary mirror was finished earlier this year.

Quantum Coating Inc. (QCI) is under contract to Ball Aerospace and Northrop Grumman. QCI constructed a new coating facility and clean room to coat the large mirror segments. QCI developed the gold coating for performance in certain areas, such as uniformity, cryogenic cycling, durability, stress and reflectance, in a two-year effort prior to coating the first flight mirror.

In the process, gold is heated to its liquid point, more than 2,500 Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius), and evaporates onto the mirror's optical surface. The coatings are 120 nanometers, a thickness of about a millionth of an inch or 200 times thinner than a human hair.

"We faced many technical challenges on the Webb mirror coating program," said Ian Stevenson, director of coating at Quantum Coating. "One of the most daunting was that all flight hardware runs had to be executed without a single failure."

The mirror segments recently were shipped to Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo., where actuators are attached that help move the mirror. From there, the segments travel to the X-ray and Calibration Facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to undergo a final test when they will be chilled to -400 Fahrenheit (-240 degrees Celsius). The last batch of six flight mirrors should complete the test by the end of this year.

The Webb telescope is a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA. "NASA's Webb Telescope completes mirror-coating milestone." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919123806.htm>.
NASA. (2011, September 19). NASA's Webb Telescope completes mirror-coating milestone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919123806.htm
NASA. "NASA's Webb Telescope completes mirror-coating milestone." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919123806.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

AP (Apr. 20, 2014) Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. (April 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins