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Webb Telescope Passes Key Mission Design Review Milestone

April 28, 2010

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has passed its most significant
mission milestone to date, the Mission Critical Design Review, or
MCDR. This signifies the integrated observatory will meet all science
and engineering requirements for its mission.

“I’m delighted by this news and proud of the Webb program’s great
technical achievements,” said Eric Smith, Webb telescope program
scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The independent team
conducting the review confirmed the designs, hardware and test plans
for Webb will deliver the fantastic capabilities always envisioned for
NASA’s next major space observatory. The scientific successor to
Hubble is making great progress.”

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., manages the
mission. Northrop Grumman, Redondo Beach, Calif., is leading the
design and development effort.

“This program landmark is the capstone of seven years of intense,
focused effort on the part of NASA, Northrop Grumman and our program
team members,” said David DiCarlo, sector vice president and general
manager of Northrop Grumman Space Systems. “We have always had high
confidence that our observatory design would meet the goals of this
pioneering science mission. This achievement testifies to that, as
well as to our close working partnership with NASA.”

The MCDR encompassed all previous design reviews including the
Integrated Science Instrument Module review in March 2009; the Optical
Telescope Element review completed in October 2009; and the Sunshield
review completed in January 2010. The project schedule will undergo a
review during the next few months. The spacecraft design, which passed
a preliminary review in 2009, will continue toward final approval next

The review also brought together multiple modeling and analysis tools.
Because the observatory is too large for validation by actual testing,
complex models of how it will behave during launch and in space
environments are being integrated. The models are compared with prior
test and review results from the observatory’s components.

Although the MCDR approved the telescope design and gave the official
go-ahead for manufacturing, hardware development on the mirror
segments has been in progress for several years. Eighteen primary
mirror segments are in the process of being polished and tested by
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Manufacturing on
the backplane, the structure that supports the mirror segments, is
well underway at Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, in Magna, Utah. This
month, ITT Corp. in Rochester, N.Y., demonstrated robotic mirror
installation equipment designed to position segments on the backplane.
The segments’ position will be fine-tuned to tolerances of a fraction
of the width of a human hair. The telescope’s sunshield moved into its
fabrication and testing phase earlier this year.

The three major elements of Webb -- the Integrated Science Instrument
Module, Optical Telescope Element, and the spacecraft itself -- will
proceed through hardware production, assembly, and testing prior to
delivery for observatory integration and testing scheduled to begin in

The Webb is the premier next-generation space observatory for
exploring deep space phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets
and stars. The telescope will provide clues about the formation of the
universe and the evolution of our own solar system, from the first
light after the Big Bang to the formation of star systems capable of
supporting life on planets like Earth. The telescope is a joint
project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space

More information about the Webb telescope:





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