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article imageFinally - James Webb Space Telescope assembled for the first time

By Karen Graham     Aug 29, 2019 in Technology
Redondo Beach - The two major sections of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have been connected to each other for the first time, a milestone in the spacecraft’s assembly ahead of a 2021 launch.
Engineers at the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California mechanically joined the observatory’s telescope element, which includes its mirrors and instruments, with the spacecraft bus and sunshield. Engineers are now working on the electrical links.
"The assembly of the telescope and its scientific instruments, sunshield and the spacecraft into one observatory represents an incredible achievement by the entire Webb team," Webb project manager Bill Ochs, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.
"This milestone symbolizes the efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals for over more than 20 years across NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, Northrop Grumman and the rest of our industrial and academic partners," Ochs added.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA s Hubble Space Telescope. It will...
The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will take the place of the iconic Hubble Space Telescope. However, the completion of the JWST has not been a smooth transition from the drawing board to this point.
The JWST was a long time in coming
Development of the JWST began in 1996 for a launch that was initially planned for 2007, but the project has had numerous delays and cost overruns and underwent a major redesign in 2005. Construction was completed in late 2016, after which its extensive testing phase began.
In March 2018, NASA delayed the launch after the telescope's sunshield ripped during a practice deployment. The launch was delayed again in June 2018 following recommendations from a report by the Government Accountability Office that warned the company, Northrup Grumman, had fallen behind schedule on the supposedly easier parts of the observatory
At a Goddard cleanroom  technicians unveil the James Webb Observatory’s segmented mirror in prepar...
At a Goddard cleanroom, technicians unveil the James Webb Observatory’s segmented mirror in preparation for an alignment test this summer. The tool used to determine the segments’ alignment has inspired Goddard technologists to create another that offers picometer accuracy for next-generation observatories.
NASA/Chris Gunn
The GAO warned that JWST was at risk of exceeding its $8 billion formulations and development cost cap prior to launch. The GAO also found that valves on the spacecraft’s thrusters had sprung leaks after being improperly cleaned, and it had taken the better part of a year to replace them. As it is, the cost has doubled.
The thing is this - despite the cost overruns and delays in getting to this point - it is worth the trouble because the Webb telescope is very powerful and is optimized to view the universe in infrared light. This will allow astronomers to address some of the biggest cosmic questions once it's up and running at the sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2, a gravitationally stable point in space about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.
"This is an exciting time to now see all Webb's parts finally joined together into a single observatory for the very first time," said Gregory Robinson, the Webb program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "The engineering team has accomplished a huge step forward and soon we will be able to see incredible new views of our amazing universe."
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