NASA today announced a major milestone in the
development of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the
selection of a beryllium-based mirror technology for the
telescope’s 6.5-meter primary mirror.

The JWST prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, Redondo Beach,
Calif., recommended to NASA the mirror technology, supplied
by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder,
Colo., be selected for the JWST primary mirror.

Northrop Grumman made the recommendation following a
detailed process that took advantage of insights from a
panel of experts representing the contractor team, NASA and
the science community. Two mirror technologies, beryllium
and ultra low-expansion glass, were tested, and their
implementation plans were thoroughly reviewed during a six-
month evaluation. Technical performance, manufacturing
schedule, facilities, staffing, and cost were factors taken
into consideration.

The production of the beryllium-based mirrors will begin
within the next year. The mirrors will be incorporated into
optical assemblies, mounted on the telescope structure, and
subjected to a series of tests at cryogenic temperatures,
individually and as an integrated system.

The Observatory design features a 6.5-meter aperture primary
mirror, comprised of 18 hexagonal shaped segments. The
telescope will be 2.5 times the diameter, yet weigh only
one-third as much, as the mirror on the Hubble Space
Telescope. JWST will be orders of magnitude more sensitive
than ground-based infrared telescopes.

After launch in 2011, JWST will peer into the infrared at
great distances to see the first stars and galaxies formed
in the universe billions of years ago. A flagship mission in
NASA’s Origins Program, JWST will search for answers to
astronomers’ fundamental questions about the birth and
evolution of galaxies, the size and shape of the universe,
and the mysterious life cycle of matter.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages
the JWST project for NASA Headquarters Office of Space
Science, Washington. The project consists of an
international team involving NASA, the European Space
Agency, Canadian Space Agency, industry and academia.

Northrop Grumman is prime contractor leading a team
including Ball Aerospace, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester,
N.Y.; and Alliant Techsystems, Magna, Utah. The major
beryllium mirror subcontractors to Ball Aerospace are
Tinsley Laboratories, Richmond, Calif.; Axsys Technologies,
Cullman, Ala.; and Brush Wellman Inc., Elmore, Ohio.

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