Space

September 20, 2013

Sunshield for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope ready for manufacturing

Technicians at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., are conducting tests to ensure the Webb Telescope’s sunshield membrane layers meet flight performance requirements.

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is dominated visually by the tennis-court sized sunshield, which separates the observatory into a warm sun-facing side and a cold anti-sun side.

Each of the five sunshield layers helps to protect the telescope optics — or mirrors — from the sun’s heat. Northrop Grumman and teammate NeXolve Corporation, a subsidiary of ManTech International Corporation based in Huntsville, Ala., completed the manufacturing of all template layers for the Webb Telescope sunshield.

The template layers are the last step before manufacturing the final flight sunshield layers. After successful completion of a manufacturing readiness review, the team is now ready to produce the final flight layers. Northrop Grumman is under contract to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the design and development of the Webb Telescope’s optics, sunshield and spacecraft. NeXolve is subcontractor to Northrop Grumman to manufacture the one-of-a-kind sunshield membranes.

The sunshield template layers have the same design and manufacturing processes as the final flight layers. Each layer has been individually shape-tested to verify that they were built to requirements. As all five template layers are being subsequently tested at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facilities to ensure the membranes meet flight performance requirements, NeXolve is beginning manufacturing of the final flight layers. Technicians at Northrop Grumman are also practicing folding and unfolding the five layers by hand on a test bed.

“We try to do things early on to eliminate risk. We want to avoid changes to the schedule and design modifications later in the process, so these tests and processes are critical and give us confidence that we can execute on the final flight layers,” said Jim Flynn, Webb sunshield manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “We have to take a step back and remember that this has never been done before, so we need to build confidence that what we’re innovating and designing will work.”

The James Webb Space Telescope will be pointed so that the Sun, Earth and Moon are always on one side, and the sunshield will act like a parasol, keeping the optics and science instruments cool by keeping them in the shade and protecting them from the heat of the sun and warm spacecraft electronics. The sunshield will allow the telescope to cool down to a temperature below 50 Kelvin (equal to minus 370 degree Fahrenheit, or minus 223 degree Celsius) by passively radiating its heat into space.

The Webb Telescope will primarily observe infrared light from faint and very distant objects. In order to detect infrared light, the optics have to be cold; thus, the sunshield passively cools the telescope to a temperature of -375 degrees F, preventing the observatory’s own heat from “blinding” its infrared sensing instruments. The sunshield membrane layers, each as thin as a human hair, are made of Kapton®, a tough, high-performance plastic coated with a reflective metal. On-orbit, the observatory will be pointed so that the sun, Earth and moon are always on one side, with the sunshield acting as an umbrella to shade the telescope mirrors and instruments from the warmer spacecraft electronics and the sun.

“Completion of manufacturing and shape testing of all five template layers is a major accomplishment for the sunshield team,” said Greg Laue, NeXolve’s sunshield program manager. “The shape performance of the sunshield has matched our predictions and met initial objectives for the system. Additionally the template layers incorporated flight-like features and manufacturing processes so conclusion of all template manufacturing represents a major milestone that has validated the flight manufacturing techniques and manufacturing precision.”

The James Webb Space 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 observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Image courtesy of NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle

NASA’s Kepler reborn, makes first exoplanet find of new mission

Image courtesy of NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers have confirmed K2&...
 
 
NASA illustration

NASA, planetary scientists find meteoritic evidence of Mars water reservoir

This illustration depicts Martian water reservoirs. Recent research provides evidence for the existence of a third reservoir that is intermediate in isotopic composition between the Red Planetís mantle and its current atmosphe...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Lockheed Martin-built MUOS-3 satellite encapsulated in launch vehicle fairing

Lockheed Martin photograph The U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System-3 satellite (above) is encapsulated in its payload fairings for a scheduled Jan. 20, 2015 launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. MUOS ope...
 

 
NASA photograph

NASA’s Orion arrives back at Kennedy

NASA photograph NASA’s Orion spacecraft returned to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida Dec. 18, 2014. The spacecraft flew to an altitude of 3,600 miles in space during a Dec. 5 flight test designed to stre...
 
 

NASA launches new Micro-g NExT for undergraduates

NASA is offering undergraduate students an opportunity to participate in a new microgravity activity called Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams. The deadline for proposals is Jan. 28, 2015. Micro-g NExT challenges students to work in teams to design and build prototypes of spacewalking tools to be used by astronauts for spacewalk training in the...
 
 
launch1

Storm fails to quench liftoff of secret reconnaissance satellite

The fiery launch of an Atlas V (541), among the most powerful of the venerable Atlas family, briefly dispelled the gloom over Californiaís Central Coast on the evening of Dec. 12. A team of personnel from United Launch Allianc...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>