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James Webb Space Telescope: final environmental tests successfully completed

Final environmental tests on the James Webb Space Telescope

Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Earlier this month, the final acoustic and vibration tests were performed on the James Webb Space Telescope before its launch to space. The results: a resounding success!

While fully assembled, the Webb Telescope was subjected to sound pressure levels above 140 decibels and low-frequency vibrations at Northrop Grumman's California facilities. Together, these two tests replicated the entire mechanical environment that Webb will endure during launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. The tests have demonstrated that Webb can withstand the harsh conditions associated with liftoff, which is the most difficult part of its journey to its destination, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.

Webb must now be fully extended and undergo a full systems evaluation. It will then be shipped to the Guiana Space Centre, launch site of the European Space Agency (ESA), for launch on .

Webb is the most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. The Canadian Space Agency is collaborating with NASA and ESA by contributing the Fine Guidance Sensor and the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, which will enable breakthrough discoveries in astronomy.

New launch date for James Webb Space Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope

Credit: NASA

Due to impacts from COVID-19 and technical challenges, the launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is now planned for . This decision is based on a recently completed schedule risk assessment of the remaining integration and test activities before launch. The new launch date factors include the impacts of augmented safety precautions, reduced on-site personnel and shift-work disruption.

Now that Webb has been assembled into its final form, the telescope will continue undergoing a final set of environmental tests before it is shipped to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. This week, electrical testing on Webb was successfully completed. Acoustics and vibration environmental tests of the full observatory are scheduled to start in . Ensuring that every element of the telescope functions properly before it gets to space is critical to its success.

The Canadian Space Agency is a proud partner of Webb, contributing two important elements of the most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. Thanks to that contribution, Canadian scientists will take part in this exciting science mission that promises to change our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

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