Ball Aerospace is celebrating today's launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) from French Guiana. The Colorado-based company designed and built the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system that will enable Webb to detect light from the first stars and galaxies. "It is truly an honor to be such an integral part of the next great space observatory," said Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace. "Today's launch is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a closely integrated team that spanned across multiple mission partners and NASA. We are tremendously eager to see the science the new observatory captures."
Once on orbit, Webb will capture faint light from the very first objects that illuminated the universe after the Big Bang.
To make this possible, Ball Aerospace worked with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Northrop Grumman, the prime industry partner, to innovate the 25 square-meter (~269 square feet) mirror system consisting of 18 beryllium mirror segments working together as one mirror. It will be the largest mirror and the first segmented telescope ever deployed in space, operating at the extremely cold space temperature of -406⁰ F (30K) necessary for infrared imaging of distant stars and galaxies.
Ball also developed the cryogenic actuators mounted on each segment to control individual mirror positioning and curvature radius within one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. To align the mirror segments, Ball also designed the 22 electronic flight control boxes to operate in a deep-freeze space environment to individually control each of the 132 actuators that keep the telescope segments properly aligned on orbit.
(Note: Ball Aerospace is a Champion Member of CO-LABS and Dr. Makenzie Lystrup is a Board Director)