Nav: Home

NASA gives the Webb Telescope a shakedown

February 13, 2017

Scientists and engineers had many challenges in designing the components of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and then had to custom design and build ways to test it.

Because of the sheer size and scale of the assembled Webb telescope, some of the equipment typically used to test spacecraft simply doesn't measure up. One of those is a "shaker table" that is used to shake satellites to ensure a spacecraft like Webb can withstand the shaking that comes with a ride into space on a rocket.

So, engineers at Team Corporation in Burlington, Washington built a new, large and advanced shaker table system at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, especially for testing Webb. "The new "Vibration Test Systems" simulates the forces the telescope will feel during the launch by vibrating it from 5 to 100 times per second" said Jon Lawrence, Webb telescope mechanical systems lead and launch vehicle liaison at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

For Webb, the need for a new shaker system was a combination of things, including shaker force magnitude, the shaker table's ability to handle the telescope's highly offset center of gravity, and the need for a precision "smart" shaker control system--one that will automatically adjust shaker input levels based on test article responses, including an automatic 'soft shutdown' capability. "No matter what facility anomaly might be experienced during testing (loss of power, loss of coolant, etc.), the Vibration Test System or VTS is designed to shut down 'softly' so as to avoid imparting potentially damaging loads," Lawrence said. After vibration testing of the telescope is completed soon, the new VTS can be used to test other future large spacecraft.

To make sure it works properly before using it to test the flight telescope, engineers put the new shaker system though its paces with many practice runs over months, using a dummy mass to represent the telescope. In November, Webb was moved from the Spacecraft Systems Development and Integration Facility 'cleanroom' and onto the new neighboring Vibration Test System (VTS), where testing is ongoing. While in the shirtsleeve environment of the VTS, a large 3-story tall cover enshrouds the telescope, acting as a portable 'cleanroom' that protects it from dust and dirt.

This spring, after vibration testing is complete, the Webb telescope will be shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for end-to-end optical tests in a vacuum at extremely cold temperatures, before it goes to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for final assembly and testing prior to launch.
-end-


NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Spacecraft Articles:

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
NASA's Van Allen Probes uncover new phenomena in our near-Earth environment with their unique double orbit.
NASA spacecraft prepares to fly to new heights
NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale mission begins a three-month long journey into a new orbit, taking it twice as far out as it has previously flown, to areas where magnetic reconnection is thought to trigger auroras.
Micro spacecraft investigates cometary water mystery
In September 2015, a team of astronomers successfully observed the entire hydrogen coma of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, using the LAICA telescope onboard the PROCYON spacecraft.
Dawn spacecraft at Ceres: Craters, cracks, and cryovolcanos
Six studies highlight new and unexpected insights into Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest object in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter).
First US asteroid sample return spacecraft begins launch preparations
The first US spacecraft designed to return a piece of an asteroid to Earth has arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it is now undergoing further testing in preparation for launch in September.
Strathclyde partners in €2.8 million spacecraft removal project
Technology for the removal of satellites from space is to be developed in a €2.8 million project involving the University of Strathclyde.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in thermal vacuum testing
The first US mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for study is undergoing a major milestone in its environmental testing.
Rosetta spacecraft sees sinkholes on comet
The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft first began orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014.
Magnetospheric multiscale spacecraft poised for launch
SwRI leads the science investigation for MMS, a NASA mission to study magnetic reconnection up close for the first time.
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft completes first deep dip campaign
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution has completed the first of five deep-dip maneuvers designed to gather measurements closer to the lower end of the Martian upper atmosphere.

Related Spacecraft Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".