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Ball Aerospace Launched Today Aboard James Webb Space Telescope

The launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) from French Guiana is being celebrated by Ball Aerospace today. Webb will be able to detect light from the first stars and galaxies thanks to the superior optical technology and lightweight mirror system developed and built by the Colorado-based business. The James Webb Space Telescope, first announced in 1996 as the Next Generation Space Telescope and renamed James Webb Space Telescope in 2002, is the largest and most complicated space research observatory ever built.

Webb will capture dim light from the earliest things that lighted the cosmos after the Big Bang once it is in orbit. Ball Aerospace collaborated with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Northrop Grumman, the primary industry partner, to develop the 25-square-meter (269-square-foot) mirror system, which is made up of 18 beryllium mirror segments that act as one.

It will be the largest mirror and the first segmented telescope ever deployed in orbit, capable of infrared imaging of distant stars and galaxies at the extremely low space temperature of -4060 F (30K). Ball also designed the cryogenic actuators that are installed on each segment and control individual mirror placement and curvature radius to one tenth of a human hair’s diameter.

Ball also built the 22 electronic flight control boxes to work in a deep-freeze space environment to independently regulate each of the 132 actuators that maintain the telescope segments properly oriented on orbit in order to position the mirror segments. Ball Aerospace drew on its extensive experience with space hardware intended for all four of NASA’s Great Observatories to conceive, validate, and demonstrate technologies necessary to develop Webb’s groundbreaking optical system.

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