WASHINGTON — Engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, installed the first of 18 beryllium-coated mirror segments that will make up the James Webb Space Telescope’s 6.5-meter primary mirror.
Ball Aerospace Corp. fabricated the mirror segments, which are now being installed by Harris Corp., onto a telescope backplane manufactured by Orbital ATK. Northrop Grumman is building JWST for NASA under a $3.5 billion prime contract.
Harris will complete the mirror installation “early next year,” NASA wrote in a Nov. 25 press release.
JWST’s primary mirror will not go into environment testing at the Johnson Space Center in Houston until 2017. NASA is still performing space-environment tests there on a pathfinder mirror, the last of which is not expected to be completed until some time in 2016.
JWST, an infrared successor to the visible-spectrum Hubble Space Telescope, is set to launch in October 2018 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket. The flagship-class observatory is expected to cost nearly $9 billion, including five years of operation.