Construction is complete on the James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror
NASA engineers have been workingtirelessly over the last few months, painstakingly assembling theJames Webb Telescope's huge primary mirror. This week marks asignificant milestone in the project, with the the last of the 18individual segments now in place.
We first heard confirmation that theassembly of the primary mirror had begun when the first segment was put in place at the end of November 2015, in a clean room at NASA'sGoddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Since then, 17 additionalsegments have been put in place using a robot arm, with theconstruction phase finally completed on February 3, with thesuccessful placement of the last piece.
Each panel of hexagonal-shaped mirrormeasures slightly over 4.2 ft (1.3 m) across, and weighs some 88 lb (40 kg). Once deployed, all 18 segments will operate as a single.21.4-ft (6.5-m) mirror, at which point the Hubble successor will getto work studying the formation of solar systems with the potential tosupport life, the evolution of our own solar system, and much more.
While the primary mirror is nowcomplete, there's a lot more to do before the telescope's scheduledlaunch in 2018, including the construction of the secondary mirror,and various acoustic and vibration tests.
"Now that the mirror is complete, welook forward to installing the other optics and conducting tests onall the components to make sure the telescope can withstand a rocketlaunch," said project manager Bill Ochs. "This is a great way tostart 2016!"