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Northrop Grumman, NASA Complete Environmental Testing of James Webb Space Telescope; Scott Willoughby Quoted

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Northrop Grumman Corporation, in partnership with NASA, has completed environmental testing on the James Webb Space Telescope, the company reported on Tuesday. With the successful trials, the company has proven Webb’s ability to withstand harsh environmental characteristics. 

“The completion of environmental testing is a major step forward in our preparations for Webb’s historic launch and a testament to the remarkable dedication of the team,” said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager, James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman.

Webb will be able to successfully operate during its upcoming rocket launch and journey to reach its orbit at the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L2). The testing consisted of a series of rigorous acoustic and sine-vibration tests spanning several weeks. 

During testing, Webb was placed in Northrop Grumman’s acoustic testing chamber to undergo high frequency oscillating sound pressure levels above 140 decibels, which simulated the effects of being launched on a rocket. 

Webb’s acoustic tests and analysis validated that the hardware, science instruments, structure and electronics would survive the rocket launch in a simulated environment. The telescope also went through a series of sine-vibration tests on a shaker table to simulate vertical and horizontal accelerations in lower frequencies. 

The observatory was exposed to vibration levels that were above the flight environment, successfully demonstrating its capability to withstand the flight environment with significant margins.

NASA and Northrop Grumman teams will work to deploy the observatory’s five-layered sunshield, as well as wing deployments of its primary mirror to fully verify Webb’s flight worthiness. Webb will also undergo a full systems evaluation before it begins preparations for its Oct. 2021 launch.

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