Optical Alignment Milestone Reached by NASA’s Roman Telescope

NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope has achieved a significant milestone in its assembly process, having successfully completed its initial optical test. Engineers at L3Harris Technologies, based in Rochester, New York, conducted the test. They integrated and examined all ten mirrors of the telescope to ensure that the Imaging Optics Assembly (IOA) can accurately direct light into the scientific instruments, a critical factor for capturing clear space images.

Joshua Abel, the chief systems engineer for the Roman Space Optical Telescope Assembly at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, expressed enthusiasm about the progress. He indicated that this was their first opportunity to see through the entire telescope before launch. Abel looked forward to advancing to the next phase of the project.

The telescope’s mirror integration involved a detailed alignment process that lasted a month. While each mirror had already passed individual tests, evaluating them as a group was necessary to confirm they would collectively produce the sharpest images possible. Bente Eegholm, an optical engineer at Goddard, emphasized the precision needed, stating that all ten mirrors needed alignment within the width of a human hair for optimal imaging quality.

The test also prepared the IOA for upcoming vibration and acoustic tests, simulating launch conditions. The results of these tests will affirm the assembly’s resilience under the intense physical stress of a spacecraft launch. The final assessment of the IOA will include a ‘cold test’ in vacuum conditions, replicating the low temperatures and vacuum of space. This is crucial for understanding how the telescope’s materials will react to temperature changes.

Scott Smith, the Roman telescope manager at Goddard, praised the team’s work, stating that the joint team from L3Harris and NASA had accomplished the test goals. He acknowledged the technicians and engineers for their precision, excellence, and commitment to the schedule.

The Optical Telescope Assembly, featuring the IOA as a key component, is expected to be completed by this fall, advancing NASA closer to the Roman Space Telescope’s mission to explore the cosmos with unparalleled clarity. NASA’s dedicated Roman Space Telescope websites provide further information and interactive experiences related to the telescope.

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