News Column

Northrop Grumman, ATK Finish Testing Backplane for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

July 11, 2014

Northrop Grumman Corp. and ATK reported that they have completed static testing of the primary mirror backplane support structure (PMBSS), moving NASA's James Webb Space Telescope one step closer to its 2018 launch.

According to a media release, the structure was delivered to Northrop Grumman's facilities in Redondo Beach, completing a critical path program milestone. Static testing demonstrates that the backplane has the structural integrity to withstand the forces and vibrations of launch, and is the final test prior to starting the integration of the backplane with the rest of the telescope.

The Group noted that the PMBSS is one of the most lightweight (given its size and complexity), precision-alignment truss structures ever designed and built. It is the stable platform that holds the telescope's science instruments and the 18 beryllium mirror-segments that form the 21-foot-diameter primary mirror nearly motionless while the telescope peers into deep space. The primary mirror is the largest mirror in the telescope, the one that starlight will hit first.

"This is the largest, most complex cryogenically stable structure humans have ever built," said Scott Texter, Webb optical telescope element manager, Northrop Grumman. "Completion of the static testing verifies that it can hold the weight it is designed to hold. Now the structural backbone of the observatory is officially verified and ready for integration."

Northrop Grumman added it is under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and leads the industry team that designs and develops the Webb Telescope's optics, sunshield and spacecraft. ATK designed, engineered and constructed the more than 10,000 parts of the entire PMBSS at its facilities in Magna, Utah.

"We are excited to deliver the state-of-the-art Webb structures to our partner Northrop Grumman for the journey into deep space," said David Shanahan, vice president and general manager of ATK's Space Components division. "ATK's composite engineering and manufacturing accomplishments have been a fantastic achievement for all of us. We look forward to the discoveries that await the James Webb Space Telescope."

ATK is an aerospace, defense and commercial products company.

Northrop Grumman is a global security company.

More Information and complete details:

www.atk.com

www.northropgrumman.com

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