The Webb telescope recently hit a milestone, as the telescope’s backbone, also known as the back-plane support system, was completed. From this frame is where all other pieces of the telescope will connect, such as the wings, optics systems and integrated science instrument model. Completing the backbone is a major step along the way toward launching the telescope.
“Fabricating and assembling the back-plane support frame of this size and stability is a significant technological step as it is one of the largest cryogenic composite structures ever built,” says Lee Feinberg, James Webb Space Telescope optical telescope element manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
One of the most unique aspects of the frame is the amount of temperature tolerance it needs to withstand. Initially built at room temperature, the frame will need to be able to operate ranging from 406 degrees F to negative 343 degrees F. The frame will be cryogenic thermally tested at Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach facility in early 2014.
Like all things sent into space, the great plane of the Webb Telescope was built in a cleanroom. To learn more about the backplane and see the ATK cleanroom, check out the video below: