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James Webb Telescope completes final functional tests

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The James Webb Telescope has completed its final functional performance tests, confirming that the observatory’s internal electronics are functioning as intended, and that all instruments will be able to send and receive data correctly once in space. More than ever, the James Webb Telescope is ready for launch in October.

The James Webb Telescope is one of the most anticipated observatories, with a launch normally scheduled for autumn aboard an Ariane 5 (ESA) rocket from Guyana. Positioned at 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth on the side opposite the Sun, it will be able to probe the Universe like never before. In the meantime, mission operators are continuing the final tests at the Northrop Grumman facility in California. And February was a pretty busy month.

Comprehensive systems testing

In recent weeks, the observatory has undergone two test campaigns. The first involved what the researchers call a “full systems test”.

During these evaluations, in concrete terms, the technicians powered up all the electrical components installed on the observatory. They then analyzed their planned operations to make sure that each was functioning and communicating with each other. During these tests, all commands were entered correctly, and all telemetry data received was correct.

The mirror of the James Webb Telescope made up of eighteen hexagonal segments. Credit: NASA

Simulate ground operations

Following the completion of the final evaluation of the telescope systems, the technicians then proceeded with the “ground segment test”. This test was designed to simulate the entire process of future operations, from planning observations to publishing scientific data in the community archives. In other words, NASA has used the observatory the same way it will when it is positioned in orbit.

With this in mind, the researchers put together a simulated plan to be followed by each of the telescope’s four scientific instruments. Sequential activation, movement and operation commands for each were then relayed from the Mission Operations Center (MOC) in Baltimore, Maryland.

At the same time, the flight operations team connected the observatory to the Deep Space Network. This is an international network of giant radio antennas that NASA uses to communicate with many spacecraft. Special equipment has been used to emulate the actual radio link that will exist between the telescope and the network when the observatory is in orbit. The commands were then transmitted via the Deep Space Network emulator to the Northrop Grumman Observatory.

All these tests were successfully rolled out, ensure The NASA. Engineers and technicians are now preparing for the next round of technical milestones. These will include the final folding of the sun visor, and a final deployment of the mirror. If all goes as planned, the telescope will then be shipped to the launch site.


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