After NASA proudly announced last month that they finished installing the primary mirror on the James Webb telescope, a large segment of the population became very excited about the specifics of the Hubble’s descendant. And for good reason, too, as the new telescope is the epitome of our current technological development in the field.
Getting one step closer to launching the impressive creation, NASA installs secondary mirror for James Webb telescope. And even though it’s not as impressive as the primary mirror, it is still part of the incredibly ingenuous and breathtaking contraption that is the James Webb Space Telescope.
As a reminder, the primary mirror of the telescope was composed out of 18 hexagonal segments, each covered in gold in order to improve its reflectivity. Although the second mirror has a different shape, size, and functionality (it’s still part of the same system), it still works by the same design.
The convex secondary mirror, with its reflective surface bulging towards a light source, is perfectly rounded. It’s supported on three 25 feet long struts extending out from the primary mirror. Build to withstand the sub-freezing temperatures and conditions of space, the hollowed out tubes are made from a very strong, light-weight material about 40 thousands of an inch (around 1 millimeter) thick.
Made of beryllium because of its stability at freezing temperatures, light weight and stiffness, the mirrors are all coated with around 0.12 ounces of gold each so as to more efficiently reflect infrared light. Without this, they would either not be effective enough, or they would crack or be distorted by outer-atmospheric conditions.
The telescope is far bigger than a rocket could safely carry in its entirety. Add to that the lack of funding at NASA, and the engineers behind the project had to come up with an efficient, ingenuous, and limitedly expensive solution to get the telescope in orbit. What is that solution, you ask?
Origami, of course. Since the team can’t mount an operation to send people up in orbit to put the telescope together, and since it can’t fit on a rocket in its final form, the engineers behind the project made it so that it unfolds pretty much like origami once it reaches orbit.
Of course, many teams of experts had to work on the project. The two primary companies helping with the construction, integration, and the very important testing were the Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, and the Harris Corporation, both subcontractors to Northrop Grumman.
According to a release on NASA’s website,
The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed and study planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
Image source: Wikimedia