Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NASA Administrator Visits Marshall's X-Ray and Cryogenic Facility

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, second from right, listens as Dave Chaney, right, a principle optical engineer for Ball Aerospace Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., explains how the James Webb Space Telescope mirror segments are tested in the Marshall Space Flight Center's X-ray and Cryogenic Facility, or XRCF, in Building 4718. From front are Helen Cole, Webb telescope activities project manager at Marshall; Charles Scales, NASA associate deputy administrator; and Robert Lightfoot, Marshall center director.

The XRCF at the Marshall Center is the world's largest X-ray telescope test facility and a unique, cryogenic, clean room optical test facility. Cryogenic testing will take place in a 7,600 cubic foot helium cooled vacuum chamber, chilling the Webb flight mirror from room temperature down to frigid -414 degrees Fahrenheit. While the mirrors change temperature, test engineers will precisely measure their structural stability to ensure they will perform as designed once they are operating in the extreme temperatures of space.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope that will be the premier observatory of the next decade. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. Its instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Webb telescope, leading a design and development team under contract to the Goddard Center.

The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to launch in 2013. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. is managing the overall development effort for the Webb telescope. The telescope is a joint project of NASA and many U.S. partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. (NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham)