The PMBSS 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 starlight will hit first.
"Static testing demonstrates 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," said
"This is the largest, most complex cryogenically stable structure humans have ever built," said
Despite its size and complexity, the PMBSS is one of the most lightweight precision-alignment truss structures ever designed and built. When fully deployed, it measures approximately 24 feet tall by 19.5 feet wide by more than 11.5 feet deep, and weighs only 2,180 pounds. Once fully assembled and populated, the PMBSS will support a mission payload and instruments that weigh more than 7,300 pounds. With a full launch load, it will support the equivalent of 12 times its own weight.
The PMBSS is designed to minimize changes in the shape of the telescope caused when one side is hotter than the other. While the telescope is operating at a range of extremely cold temperatures, between -406 and -343 degrees Fahrenheit, the backplane must not move more than 38 nanometers, approximately 1/1,000 the diameter of a human hair.
Under contract from
The next step for the space telescope is to integrate the composite structures with the deployment mechanisms to create the overall Optical Telescope Element (OTE) structure. The OTE structure will then be shipped to Goddard for integration with the mirrors.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to
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