Journey of the Mirrors
A Cross-Country Journey of Mirror Making
The James Webb Space Telescope's 18 special lightweight beryllium mirrors have to make 14 stops to 11 different places around the U.S. to complete their manufacturing. The 18 mirror segments will form the Webb telescope's huge primary mirror. There are 18 segments, because it takes a large mirror to look back farther back in time. They come to life at beryllium mines in Utah, and then move across the country for processing and polishing. In fact, the mirrors make stops in eight states along the way, visiting some states more than once, before journeying to South America for lift-off and the beginning of their final journey to space. This graphic shows the different places they have to travel, and what is accomplished at each location. Just move your mouse over the number!
A downloadable four page flyer on the journey of the mirrors 4.5 MB .pdf
NOTE: Image scrolls horizontally on small screens.
- Journey 1
From Brush Wellman Inc.'s mine in the Topaz-Spor Mountains of Utah, beryllium powder is mined and shipped to Brush Wellman's facility in Elmore, Ohio, where it is sifted and purified into an extremely uniform optical mirror blank.
- Journey 2
To Axsys Technologies in Cullman, Alabama, where the back of each “blank” is made into a honeycomb structure to lighten it, and they also provide general shaping of the front of the mirror.
- Journey 3
To L3 Communications, Tinsley Laboratories in Richmond, California, where segments are ground and polished to a smooth and exact shape, then tested at room temperature.
- Journey 4
To Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, where mounts and actuators are attached to the mirror segments, and vibration and optical testing are done.
- Journey 5
To the X-ray and Cryogenic Facility (XRCF) in Huntsville, Alabama, where Ball conducts cold (cryogenic) vacuum optical testing of segments in order to generate a map of cold distortions provided as a map to Tinsley Labs.
- Journey 6
Back to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado, to remove mount and actuators.
- Journey 7
Back to L3 Communications, Tinsley Laboratories at Richmond, California. Where each mirror is fine-tuned by polishing in the opposite of the surface error values derived from the XRCF's super-cold testing. Now, distortion that occurs in space-cold should actually perfect the mirror.
- Journey 8
Back to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado, to clean mirror segments to prepare for coating.
- Journey 9
To Quantum Coating, Inc., Moorestown, New Jersey, where gold is evaporated over the segments in vacuum chamber and it forms a very thin coating on the smooth mirror surface.
- Journey 10
Back to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado, to reassemble the mirror segments with mount and actuators. Final vibration testing is done.
- Journey 11
Back to the XRCF in Huntsville, Alabama, where Ball performs final cryogenic acceptance testing on the segments.
- Journey 12
To NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland where personnel from the ITT Corporation, Rochester, New York, assemble the telescope and attaches it to the instrument module. Acoustic and vibration tests are performed.
- Journey 13
To NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas for final cryogenic testing of the whole telescope.
- Journey 14
To Northrop Grumman, Redondo Beach, California for integration of the assembly with the spacecraft and sunshield.
- Journey 15
To the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guiana, for lift-off on an Ariane 5 rocket…and the beginning of the Webb telescope's million-mile journey to its final destination in space!