James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Installation Reaches Halfway Point

This rare overhead shot of the James Webb Space Telescope shows the nine primary flight mirrors installed on the telescope structure in a clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.  Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Gunn

As history closes in on 2015, assembly of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reached a historic milestone as the installation of the primary mirrors onto the telescope structure reached the halfway point to completion and marks the final assembly phase of the colossal observatory.

Technicians have just installed the ninth of 18 primary flight mirrors onto the mirror holding backplane structure at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The team is using a robotic arm to carefully but diligently attach each mirror to the structure of the colossal observatory that will eventually become the most powerful telescope ever sent to space.

“This fall we start installing every mirror,” said Sandra Irish, JWST lead structural engineer during a recent interview with Universe Today at the NASA Goddard clean room facility.

The painstaking assembly work to piece the mirrors together began when the first unit was successfully installed onto the central segment just before the Thanksgiving 2015 holiday.

Working inside the massive clean room at NASA Goddard dedicated to the task, the engineering team manipulates the huge robotic arm to precisely lift and lower each gold coated mirror into place onto the observatory’s critical mirror holding backplane assembly.

The actual flight mirror backplane is comprised of three segments – the main central segment and a pair of outer wing-like segments holding three mirrors each.

One by one the team has first been populating the 12 unit central segment of the telescope structure with the primary mirrors at a pace of roughly two per week since the installations started some five weeks ago.

The pair of foldable side mounted wings at both sides, each holding a trio of mirrors, remain empty as of now.

The wings have been unfolded from the stowed-for-launch configuration to the “deployed” configuration to —> Read More