NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has successfully cleared another critical testing milestone, taking this ambitious observatory one step closer to its 2021 launch. The spacecraft has gone through its final thermal vacuum test meant to ensure that its hardware will function electronically in the vacuum of space, and withstand the extreme temperature variations it will encounter on its mission.
One half of the Webb observatory, known as the “spacecraft element,” completed this testing at the facilities of Northrop Grumman, the mission’s lead industrial partner, in Los Angeles. The other half of Webb, which consists of the telescope and science instruments, has already successfully completed its thermal vacuum testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston prior to delivery at Northrop Grumman last year.
The next steps will be to join both halves of Webb to form the fully assembled observatory and complete a final round of deployments, testing and evaluation prior to launch. Full deployment of the spacecraft element will verify that Webb is ready to proceed to the launch site.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.