NASA News: NASA'S Webb Telescope Completes Mirror Coating Milestone

GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached a
major milestone in its development. The mirrors that will fly aboard
the telescope have completed the coating process at Quantum Coating
Inc. in Moorestown, N.J.

The telescope's mirrors have been coated with a microscopically thin
layer of gold, selected for its ability to properly reflect infrared
light from the mirrors into the observatory's science instruments.
The coating allows the Webb telescope's "infrared eyes" to observe
extremely faint objects in infrared light. Webb's mission is to
observe the most distant objects in the universe.

"Finishing all mirror coatings on schedule is another major success
story for the Webb telescope mirrors," said Lee Feinberg, NASA
Optical Telescope Element manager for the Webb telescope at the
agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "These
coatings easily meet their specifications, ensuring even more
scientific discovery potential for the Webb telescope."

The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 mirror segments working
together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. The
mirror segments are made of beryllium, which was selected for its
stiffness, light weight and stability at cryogenic temperatures. Bare
beryllium is not very reflective of near-infrared light, so each
mirror is coated with about 0.12 ounce of gold.

The last full size (4.9-foot /1.5-meter) hexagonal beryllium primary
mirror segment that will fly aboard the observatory recently was
coated, completing this stage of mirror production.

The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory
and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space
telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the
first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars.
It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the
Canadian Space Agency.

Mirror manufacturing began eight years ago with blanks made out of
beryllium, an extremely hard metal that holds its shape in the
extreme cold of space where the telescope will orbit. Mirror coating
began in June 2010. Several of the smaller mirrors in the telescope,
the tertiary mirror and the fine steering mirror, were coated in
2010. The secondary mirror was finished earlier this year.

Quantum Coating Inc. (QCI) is under contract to Ball Aerospace and
Northrop Grumman. QCI constructed a new coating facility and clean
room to coat the large mirror segments. QCI developed the gold
coating for performance in certain areas, such as uniformity,
cryogenic cycling, durability, stress and reflectance, in a two-year
effort prior to coating the first flight mirror.

In the process, gold is heated to its liquid point, more than 2,500
Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius), and evaporates onto the mirror's
optical surface. The coatings are 120 nanometers, a thickness of
about a millionth of an inch or 200 times thinner than a human hair.

"We faced many technical challenges on the Webb mirror coating
program," said Ian Stevenson, director of coating at Quantum Coating.
"One of the most daunting was that all flight hardware runs had to be
executed without a single failure."

The mirror segments recently were shipped to Ball Aerospace in
Boulder, Colo., where actuators are attached that help move the
mirror. From there, the segments travel to the X-ray and Calibration
Facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,
to undergo a final test when they will be chilled to -400 Fahrenheit
(-240 degrees Celsius). The last batch of six flight mirrors should
complete the test by the end of this year.

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For more information about the Webb telescope, visit:



NASA, ATK New Commercial Crew Announcement on NASA TV

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The NASA and Alliant Techsystems (ATK)
announcement of an agreement that could accelerate the availability
of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities at 3 p.m. EDT on
Tuesday, Sept. 13 will be carried live on NASA Television.

The announcement will occur at the Press Site auditorium at NASA's
Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The participants are:
-- Ed Mango, Commercial Crew Program manager, NASA
-- Kent Rominger, vice president, Strategy and Business Development,
ATK Aerospace
-- John Schumacher, vice president, Space Programs, EADS North America

Reporters may ask questions in-person from Kennedy or using a phone
bridge managed at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. To use the
phone bridge, journalists must call the Johnson newsroom at
281-483-5111 by 2:45 p.m. EDT.

For NASA TV downlink information, Video File schedules and links to
streaming video, visit:


For information on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, visit:


For information about ATK, visit:



NASA Seeks Undergraduates To Fly Research In Microgravity

HOUSTON -- NASA is offering undergraduate students the opportunity to
test an experiment in microgravity as part of the agency's Reduced
Gravity Education Flight Program. The program is accepting proposals
for two different flight experiences in 2012.

Teams interested in conducting student-driven research should submit a
letter of intent by Sept. 14. This step is optional, but serves as an
introductory notice that a team plans to submit a proposal for the
competition. Proposals for student-driven experiments are due Oct.
26, and selected teams will be announced Dec. 7. The actual flight
experience will take place in June 2012.

The initiative, managed by the Education Office at NASA's Johnson
Space Center in Houston, provides future scientists and engineers an
opportunity to design, build and fly an experiment aboard a
microgravity aircraft. The aircraft is a modified jet that flies
approximately 30 roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to simulate
micro- and hyper-gravity. The overall experience includes scientific
research, hands-on experimental design, test operations and public
outreach activities.

"This program leverages NASA's unique resources and allows students to
determine what it takes to be a real world scientist or engineer,"
said Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program Manager Doug Goforth.

NASA personnel also have indentified student opportunities related to
ongoing systems engineering projects that are pertinent to future
agency research and missions. Students interested in working on these
projects are encouraged to apply for the Systems Engineering
Educational Discovery (SEED) flight week opportunity. Proposals are
due by Oct. 26, and selected teams will be announced Nov. 30. The
SEED flight week will take place in April 2012.

All applicants for these programs must be U.S. citizens. Full-time
students must be at least 18 years old. Selected teams may invite an
accredited journalist to fly with them to document the experience.

For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight
Program, or the application process, or to submit a proposal, contact
jsc-reducedgravity@nasa.gov or visit:


To view SEED flight week opportunities, visit:


For information about NASA's education programs, visit:



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