NASA Will Resume Vibration Testing Of James Webb Telescope This Month

Posted: Jan 4 2017, 5:37am CST | by , Updated: Jan 4 2017, 6:39am CST , in Latest Science News


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NASA Will Resume Vibration Testing of James Webb Telescope This Month
Computer graphic rendering of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Credits: Northrop Grumman

NASA Scientists will Resume James Webb Telescope’s Test in January that Stopped Unexpectedly

Space scientists do vibration tests to check the fitness of spacecraft and instruments, like telescopes. NASA recently had routine test of James Webb Space Telescope and found some changes in its structure’s motion. The scientists stopped the test to see the reason behind these changes.

The responses helped scientists team to analyze different scenarios. The team has successfully performed three low level tests for telescopes vibrations, and had nearly reached the main cause.

Both ultrasonic and visual tests of telescope are fine. The team is now reviewing its research, and conclusion, and it’s planning to resume the vibration test in January, stated Eric Smith, program director for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA Scientists test the instruments to find their real condition instead of following their opinion about the condition, said Paul Geithner, deputy project manager – technical for the Webb telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

On Dec 3, while doing the vibration test at NASA Goddard, the team found unexpected changes through accelerometers attached to the telescopes. The test stopped by default to save the hardware. The whole event happened in just fraction of seconds at a certain frequency, like one note lower than the lowest note on a piano.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope sits in a clean tent before vibration testing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Gunn

NASA does the vibration tests at acoustics and vibration test facilities to see if the spacecraft is working well and is ready for the flight. High levels of vibrations are created by the spacecraft, so the ground test checks the vibration. The component that tests the vibration is either too small like a few ounces, or it’s too large like a huge structure.

The test on James Webb Space Telescope ensures the engineers and scientists that the spacecraft and its instruments are ready for launch from French Guiana in 2018.

The test showed unexpected responses, because Webb telescope is more complex than any other instrument. Scientists can’t predict the results of future tests, but the purpose is to find any issues with the instrument that could be solved before the launch.

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