World's Largest Space Telescope Moves Closer to Launch

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World's Largest Space Telescope Moves Closer to Launch

Set to launch in 2018, The James Webb Space Telescope is in its final stages of testing.

After twenty plus years of construction, this impressive new telescope has passed the last test at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and is well on its way to the Johnson Space Center in Houston where it will undergo further testing.

Testing at both facilities ensures that the telescope will be able to withstand the stress of space travel. At Goddard, research engineers evaluated the curvature of Webb’s mirrors to gauge whether or not they were warped during the yearlong testing process and were relieved to find the mirrors remained unchanged.

As the telescope moves onto Johnson, it will be put to the final test. The entire telescope’s optics will be vacuum tested at minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 262 degrees Celsius. After it passes the final test, the scope will move to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California for assembly and lastly to French Guiana for launch.

Unlike any that have come before it, the Webb Telescope is equipped with seven times the collecting area of its predecessor the Hubble Space Telescope and possesses the ability to gather previously uncollectible infrared light.

When the James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2018 it will become the largest telescope to ever reach space. Floating among the stars, the telescope will be conveniently positioned in an area behind Earth from the perspective of the sun. The Webb telescope will provide never before seen views of far away planets and galaxies near distant stars.

Photo by Kevin Gill/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Caitlin Phillips is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.