James Webb’s mirror, in all its glory

This is how the primary mirror on the much-awaited James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will look when fully deployed.

In the most recent test, the 6.5-metre mirror, with its 18 hexagonal, gold-coated mirror segments, was unfolded as part of the complex sequence that will take place once the observatory is in space and about to reach its operational orbit.

Special gravity offsetting equipment was attached to the mirror to simulate the zero-gravity environment its mechanisms will have to operate in. The action took place in a cleanroom at Northrop Grumman Space Systems in Redondo Beach, California. 

NASA says the difficulty and complexity of performing tests for JWST has increased significantly now that the observatory has been fully assembled. 

COVID-19 situation is also having an impact. 

The Northrop Grumman team has resumed integration and testing work with reduced personnel and shifts until the Deployable Tower Assembly set up this month. The project will then shut down integration and testing operations until further notice.

The JWST is an international project involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. It is scheduled to launch next year.

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