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NASA Prepares Webb Telescope Pathfinder for Famous Chamber | by NASA Goddard Photo and Video
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NASA Prepares Webb Telescope Pathfinder for Famous Chamber

Engineers and technicians manually deployed the secondary mirror support structure (SMSS) of the James Webb Space Telescope's Pathfinder backplane test model, outside of a giant space simulation chamber called Chamber A, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. This historic test chamber was previously used in manned spaceflight missions and is being readied for a cryogenic test of a Webb telescope component.


In the weightless environment of space, the SMSS is deployed by electric motors. On the ground, specially trained operators use a hand crank and a collection of mechanical ground support equipment to overcome the force of gravity.


"This structure needs to be in the deployed configuration during the cryogenic test to see how the structure will operate in the frigid temperatures of space," said Will Rowland, senior mechanical test engineer for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, California. "The test also demonstrates that the system works and can be successfully deployed."


After the deployment was completed, Chamber A's circular door was opened and the rails (seen in the background of the photo) were installed so that the Pathfinder unit could be lifted, installed and rolled into the chamber on a cart. The team completed a fit check for the Pathfinder. Afterwards they readied the chamber for the cryogenic test, which will simulate the frigid temperatures the Webb telescope will encounter in space.


“The team has been doing a great job keeping everything on schedule to getting our first optical test results, " said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element Manager.


The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.


Image credit: NASA/Desiree Stover


Text credit: Laura Betz, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.


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Taken on February 20, 2015