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NASA Space Hardware

James Webb Telescope Passes Critical Tests 82

Posted by kdawson
from the good-to-go dept.
eldavojohn writes "The Hubble Telescope's successor reached a milestone today as it passed a critical design review. The James Webb Space Telescope was originally set to launch in 2013 but has run about $1B over budget and has been pushed back to a 2014 launch. Today's good news means that there shouldn't be further delays as the JWST has accomplished all science and engineering requirements for all mission-critical design functionality. Scientists, of course, think these delays and costs 'pale in comparison to the secrets of the universe the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to unlock.' These are exciting times for many realms of science, even if we're somewhat saddened by it being the loyal Hubble's twilight hours."
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James Webb Telescope Passes Critical Tests

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  • It is a pity more isn't put into projects like this - I personally feel that we've have learnt so much from Hubbble that it is, at least for the time being, the best option for space exploration. But what wil happen to Hubble? Surely it will retain some functionality into the future?
    • Re:Hubble II (Score:5, Informative)

      by ogre7299 (229737) <jjtobin@@@umich...edu> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:51PM (#32058912)

      It is a pity more isn't put into projects like this - I personally feel that we've have learnt so much from Hubbble that it is, at least for the time being, the best option for space exploration. But what wil happen to Hubble? Surely it will retain some functionality into the future?

      They'll keep Hubble going as long as they can since its capabilities aren't going to be duplicated by any mission within the next decade. The weak link of the telescope seems to be the gyroscopes, which are used to point the telescope. They'll probably fail before the instruments have completely failed.

      • by iso-cop (555637)
        Hubble has another 5-10 years depending on built-in engineering margin and good or bad fortune.
      • "They'll keep Hubble going as long as they can since its capabilities aren't going to be duplicated by any mission within the next decade."

        They will keep Hubble going for as long as possible. However it's capabilities will be greatly surpassed by both the Webb and the E-ELT [youtube.com] within the next decade. We are living in a golden age of astronomy, when I was a kid in the 60's-70's the largest telescope in the world boasted a 0.5 meter mirror, the E-ELT will have a 42 meter mirror.
    • by MRe_nl (306212)

      It was destroyed by Philip J. Fry in the First Omicronian Invasion of Earth because it looked like an Omicronian Ship.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cetialphav (246516)

      The Webb telescope is estimated to cost around $4.5 billion and have a life span of 5-10 years. The ISS will cost over $100 billion over 30 years and we will have spent $174 billion in almost 30 years of shuttle service when it retires.

      If we built several space telescopes instead of 1 every 20-30 years, we would have less money for shuttle and ISS missions. That would mean that we would not answer such burning questions as:

      - Do mice get osteoporosis in space? (link [nasa.gov])
      - Do LANs work in space? (link [nasa.gov])
      - How do

      • Re:Hubble II (Score:4, Insightful)

        by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @08:07PM (#32059958) Homepage

        If that's the worst you could find, I'm not impressed.

        Do mice get osteoporosis in space? (link)

        If we want to put people into space, questions like the health effects of being there is rather important.

        And they test on mice, because you can kill it and examine all the bones in detail. I'm sure they do checks of the astronaut's bones as well, but you can do much more invasive examinations of a mouse.

        Do LANs work in space? (link)

        It seems to me this is a test of the IIS' specific LAN, not LANs in general. Things in space have to be specially designed, I'm pretty sure it's not a normal off the shelf switch what they have up there. And any lessons learned there will be probably useful for future things. I don't know if space telescopes use networking internally, but it seems like a possibility.

        How do people deal with the vibrations of a space launch? (link)

        Well, again, if you want to launch people into space, not killing them while getting there is important. This one seems to also test whether the UI will be readable in launch conditions. Which also seems kind of important, since they may need to interact with it during launch.

        The genetic changes in yeast in space. ()

        Just like with the mice, it's research of the long term consequences of being in space. Yeast reproduces quickly, too, which is good for genetics research.

        When you are up against such ground breaking breakthroughs as these, you can see how it is tough to scrape together the cash to study trivial things like the origin of the universe and whether there are other inhabitable planets in the galaxy.

        Ok, and how do you go inhabit a planet, if you don't know whether the astronauts will be able to deal with launch conditions, not die of cancer due to the radiation during the travel, and retain enough bone mass to avoid breaking their legs during the landing?

        I vaguely remember hearing that atronauts' health deteriorates significantly after staying on the IIS for a long time. If we're going to land on another planet we'd have to be sure that the astronauts will be in good enough condition to do whatever needs to be done once they land.

        • by Yfrwlf (998822)

          And they test on mice, because you can kill it and examine all the bones in detail. I'm sure they do checks of the astronaut's bones as well, but you can do much more invasive examinations of a mouse.

          Ah science at it's worst, humans murdering and torturing other species and somehow justifying it on bettering themselves.

          • by Jedi Alec (258881)

            So...you're volunteering to go up there so we can cut you open afterwards?

            Uhuh? Wasn't thinking so either.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We DO have half a dozen space telescopes in orbit. Right now.

        1. Chandra
        2. Fermi
        3. Spitzer
        4. Hubble
        5. Wilkinson
        6. Herschel

        If the goal is "to understand alot [sic] more of the universe," why are you limiting your telescopes to optical and NIR?

  • by jdhutchins (559010) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:51PM (#32058922)

    The article states that the JWST passed the Mission Critical Design Review, which is a specific event, not just a "critical review". This review means that the entire spacecraft has been designed and analyzed. However, there are likely to be further delays as hardware is built and engineers realize it doesn't quite meet the expectations that the analysis set out for it.

    • Schedule will mean everything from now on. Schedule = $$. If the hardware doesn't quite meet expectations, work-arounds will be sought.

      It is also worth pointing out that CDR is an event (as the parent states), not a "test" (as the article title alleges).

  • by listentoreason (1726940) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:15PM (#32059050)
    Wise up, people. That's not a telescope, it's a wave motion gun [ens-lyon.fr]. Just compare to its predecessor, Space Telescope Yamato [gepinfo.it] - although the main weapon has been moved from a spinal mount to a giant deck emplacement, they're using the same hull layout and even an identical color scheme.
    • by MRe_nl (306212)

      Ah, Slippery Jim DiGriz, she is attempting to have an illegal space battleship built on a backwoods planet.
      I should have known, it's to large for a transport in this day and age ; ).

      (Harry Harrison, Astounding, The Misplaced Battleship (1960)).

  • general question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cadience (770683)
    Do long multi-year projects typically take inflation into account for budget overrun analysis?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927)
      Yes, when doing a budget for a large project you always use cost units such as FY2010 dollars.
    • Yes, that's standard accounting.
       
      That being said, we're going to see a lot more nasty overruns over the next few years because of massive price increases over the last few years. NASA has been badly bitten by this once before, during the early/mid 70's when inflation soared - during the critical early years of Shuttle R&D.

  • by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @06:51PM (#32059616)
    JWST is not a successor to the Hubble Telescope in any sensible way except for the fact
    that they are both telescopes and both in space. JWST will look at infrared light between 600
    and 28 000 nanometers, mostly way outside of the visible spectrum where Hubble makes its pictures.
    We will learn a lot by those IR observations, that's for sure - but JWST does not replace Hubble, it
    supplements it.

    I really don't know how this "successor to Hubble" thing got started.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TapeCutter (624760) *
      Hubble can also see a small portion of the infra-red spectrum. The Webb overlaps Hubble's and part of Spitzer's wavelength in the infra-red and fills a gap in the middle. The 42 Meter ground based E-ELT will be 15X more sensitive than Hubble in the visible spectrum.
    • by slaingod (1076625)

      IIRC I think the likely reason is that the Webb telescope is supposed to allow us to see even further into the 'deep field' region, to much higher red shifts, and consequently closer to the Big Bang. While I agree the Hubble has done many, many things besides that, in the Ultra Deep Field sense, it is the successor.

    • "The man whose name NASA has chosen to bestow upon the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is most commonly linked to the Apollo moon program, not to science."

      First Sentence: http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/whois.html/ [nasa.gov]

  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @07:37PM (#32059818)

    BEfore we wet our pants in excitement, let's remember:

    * The Hubble passed a slew of design reviews too.
    * Even so, it went up with many, many flaws, including:
    * Electronics not shielded well enough to handle the South Atlantic Anomaly.
    * Gyroscopes not qualified for the temperature cycles and SAA.
    * Solar panels that oilcan buckle when going from sunlight to shade.
    * Solar panel mount that does not go through the center of mass of the scope, so oilcan buckling causes the whole thing to oscillate.
    * Unbalanced and uncushioned light cap that likewise shakes the whole thing when it's operated.

    Although the new scope will have been checked against that list of problems, without major overhaul of the management structure, it's likely the same thing will happen this time.

     

    • by ogre7299 (229737) <jjtobin@@@umich...edu> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @07:57PM (#32059906)

      BEfore we wet our pants in excitement, let's remember:

      * The Hubble passed a slew of design reviews too.
      * Even so, it went up with many, many flaws, including:
      * Electronics not shielded well enough to handle the South Atlantic Anomaly.
      * Gyroscopes not qualified for the temperature cycles and SAA.
      * Solar panels that oilcan buckle when going from sunlight to shade.
      * Solar panel mount that does not go through the center of mass of the scope, so oilcan buckling causes the whole thing to oscillate.
      * Unbalanced and uncushioned light cap that likewise shakes the whole thing when it's operated.

      Although the new scope will have been checked against that list of problems, without major overhaul of the management structure, it's likely the same thing will happen this time.

      Granted Hubble had many problems when it launched mainly because it was one of the first and most advanced general purpose observatories launched.

      We have had tons of experience building space telescopes over the past 30 years since Hubble was designed and Hubble is the only one that is serviceable by the shuttle.

      Just to list all the successful observatories since Hubble:

      Infrared Space Observatory (Europe)
      Chandra X-Ray observatory
      Spitzer Space Telescope
      WMAP
      FUSE
      Herschel Space Observatory (Mostly Europe)
      Planck (Europe)
      Suzaku X-Ray observatory (Japan)
      and probably a few others I forgot about.

      Bottom line, we know a lot about building space telescopes now, the doom and gloom you forecast is probably a bit over the top. Every project has problems, that's why we have brilliant engineers to find solutions.

    • by Jahmbo (807363)
      Not to mention the "spherical aberration" that required the installation of corrective lenses. http://hubblesite.org/the_telescope/nuts_.and._bolts/optics/costar/ [hubblesite.org]
    • it's likely the same thing will happen this time.

      Actually it's unlikely since your pessimisim is ignoring the fact that the vast majority of space observatories have operated flawlessly.
  • How does NASA intend to haul it into orbit? I know there are only a couple of shuttle missions left, and I didn't think the Constellation program is due to launch before 2015?
  • Timely article (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Leebert (1694) *

    My last day at Goddard Space Flight Center was yesterday. (almost 10 years!) I finally got around to getting a friend to give me a tour of the Spacecraft Systems Design and Integration Facility, where I got to see JWST parts in the clean room. (heh, 20 minutes of gowning procedures for a 10 minute trip into the clean room.) Very, very cool. Gonna miss that place.

    I'm pretty sure I'm going to follow JWST a lot more heavily now, too many friends are involved in it to ignore it as I have been.

    (Sadly, for

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shag (3737)

      I'd love to see JWST. I used to work in astronomy at one of the universities involved in developing the CCD sensors for NIRCam and was around the prototype camera they built with the first few chips off Rockwell's fab, for testing on the terrestrial telescope I operated, but it's just not the same as seeing something that's going into space.

      (Incidentally, that prototype camera was built around 2003ish. They wanted to be sure the chips worked well before launching.)

  • From the article, "This month, ITT Corp. in Rochester, N.Y., demonstrated robotic mirror installation equipment designed to position segments on the backplane."

    I'm pleased to say that I was one of the individuals giving that demo to the JWST review team :) And kudos to the team for assembling quite the system for integrating the segments.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Now we just need to launch it.
      I put the odds at less than 50% that it will launch but I am in a pessimistic mood.

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