By Don Gworek
The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland is where many spacecraft are designed, built and tested.
This is a full size mock up of the Webb telescope. It’s a very different design, designed to capture infrared light. Light is focused from the 18 hexagonal primary mirrors. The five diamond-shaped layers unfurled below the mirror array protect the telescope instruments from infrared light radiating from the Moon, Earth and Sun. (NASA Photo)
The Webb telescope will also orbit a very long distance away, at a point in space called L-2. It’s one of five points where gravity/centrifugal force from the Earth and Moon are at equilibrium. L-2 is also a very cold location, -200 degrees Celsius/-328 degrees Fahrenheit. (NASA Graphic)
Components of the Webb telescope are currently being tested in the Space Systems Development and Integration Facility (SSDIF) at NASA Goddard. The large black rectangle at center photo is the Spacecraft Bus. In electronics, a bus is where components interconnect.
Air enters the clean room through this wall. The clean room has positive pressure, meaning that air entering from the filter forces air out from tiny vent holes in the wall on the opposite side. Positive pressure means also that the only way air can enter the room is through this wall.
A mirror is already in the clean room. This is an engineering model that is also a spare. If the spare is not needed, it is likely to go on display in a museum after the launch. Each of the 18 Webb primary mirrors is 1.3 m or 51 inches across.
James Webb was NASA’s second administrator, for seven years starting in 1961. In 1965 he began to advocate construction of a telescope in space. His initiative resulted in the Hubble telescope. the James Webb Space Telescope will continue to explore space, as Hubble’s mission concludes. (NASA Graphic)
A free sample from the lab, separated to show some of the layers. This sample has Kapton on top of layers of Polyester Netting and Mylar. The netting keeps the Mylar separated, forming a void blocking transfer of heat between layers.
A work area, which has fabric-working tools that are common in the fashion industry. Technicians working here actually do have prior employment in the fashion industry, due to the need to make custom patterns that fit spacecraft perfectly.
Pressure, heat, and cold temperature testing of spacecraft components is done in chambers like these. The large blue container cylinder contains the chamber, and here the components enter the chamber horizontally.
Remember seeing the spare primary mirror for the Webb telescope earlier in this article? Someday that spare many be on display in a museum too.
It’s not possible for museum visitors to enter any of the three Space Shuttle orbiters. The only way in/out of an orbiter is the crew hatch. However, to give an idea of what the cabin is like, the Smithsonian has this mock up. This mock up is a temporary exhibit, a test of visitor interest and crowd flow.
The Smithsonian also has a remote controlled camera inside its cabin. You can look around the cabin with this camera.