NASA’s James Webb telescope being tested for space

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NASA has completed testing on the JWST which ensures it will be able to withstand the launch and operate fully when it is in Earth’s orbit. The space agency said there were two significant tests, which shows that all the internal electronics are performing as they should be and that it will withstand the pressure when it is being blasted into orbit. The testing took place at Northrop Grunman, in Virginia, which took a total of 17 days.

Engineers ran a full scan, known as a “comprehensive systems test”, which ensures electrical function for the entire of JWST.

They then re-ran the tests to compare data sets.

NASA said: “After thoroughly examining the data, the team confirmed that the observatory will both mechanically and electronically survive the rigours of launch.”

Jennifer Love-Pruitt, Northrop Grumman’s electrical vehicle engineering lead on the Webb observatory, said: “It’s been amazing to witness the level of expertise, commitment and collaboration across the team during this important milestone.

“It’s definitely a proud moment because we demonstrated Webb’s electrical readiness.

“The successful completion of this test also means we are ready to move forward toward launch and on-orbit operations.”

Following the comprehensive systems evaluation, technicians began the ground segment test.

This test allows experts to “simulate the complete process from planning science observations to posting the scientific data to the community archive”.

The segment test first created a plan for each of the JWST’s scientific instruments to follow.

NASA said: “During the test, the observatory is treated as if it were a million miles away in orbit.

“To do this, the Flight Operations Team connected the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant radio antennas that NASA uses to communicate with many spacecraft.

“However, since Webb isn’t in space yet, special equipment was used to emulate the real radio link that will exist between Webb and the Deep Space Network when Webb is in orbit.

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“Commands were then relayed through the Deep Space Network emulator to the observatory at Northrop Grumman.”

NASA hopes to launch the JWST on October 31 this year.

Scientists are optimistic the JWST will help unravel the mysteries of the Universe and potentially find alien life.

The infrared machine is so powerful it will reach back to the furthest realms and the earliest moments of space and time.

And the JWST, which is named after NASA’s second administrator, James Webb, who served from 1961 to 1968 and who played a major part in the Apollo missions, has the capability of scanning thousands of planets for alien life – even though those planets are thousands of light-years away.

As well as seeing further into space it will accurately measure the content of water, carbon dioxide and other components in the atmosphere of an exoplanet – a planet outside of our solar system – as well as tell scientists more about the size and distance these planets are from their host stars.

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