RUAG’s space technology helps answer the unsolved mysteries of our universe
RUAG’s space technology helps answer the unsolved mysteries of our universe
Press release from: Espace RUAG
Posted: Friday December 3 2021
RUAG Space’s engineering and production capabilities will play a central role in launching the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) from KourouSpace port in French Guiana, scheduled for December 22, 2021. In addition to the payload fairing, the separation system and the on-board computer of the Ariane 5 launcher, the company delivered the antennas for transmitting data to the Earth, the ground support equipment as well as three mechanisms for two of the telescope’s four scientific instruments.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – or “Webb” for short – is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will be able to scan the oldest and most remote areas of the universe to study some of the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang more than 13.5 billion years ago. The satellite was developed under the leadership of NASA in cooperation with European and Canadian space agencies. Its launch is scheduled from the European spaceport of Kourou, in French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket on December 22, 2021.
Collaborative effort to change the way we see our world
For a quarter of a century, thousands of engineers and hundreds of scientists around the world have worked to make Webb a reality, along with more than 300 universities, organizations, and businesses in 29 U.S. states and 14 countries. In addition, RUAG Space contributed to the mission with key technology from its sites around the world. “Like no other mission, Webb demonstrates what the international space community is capable of. Revolutionary technology will study every phase of cosmic history – from our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. A hundred times more powerful than its predecessor, Hubble, the JWST will change the way we view our universe. We are proud to be part of this global collaborative effort that will help us better understand ourselves, our solar system and the history of our universe. “, Underlines André Wall, CEO of RUAG International.” In addition to the fairing of the payload, the computer and the separation system of the Ariane 5 launcher, we had the honor to provide the transmission antenna of the data to Earth, ground equipment, and three mechanisms for two of the telescope’s four scientific instruments, he continues.
Ensuring Webb’s Data Reaches Earth
The communications antenna system that will transmit the data collected by the telescope to Earth was developed and produced by RUAG Space in Gothenburg, Sweden. The system consists of two antennas, one of which is a 0.6m diameter carbon fiber composite reflector that offers low weight and high accuracy at extreme temperatures. The second antenna is a small cup-type antenna that provides a backup function in another frequency band. “All the amazing scientific data from the telescope will pass through our antennas. Imagine, for example, if this turns out to be the missing piece of the puzzle to help us better understand dark matter, ”says Anders Linder, Head of Global Satellites Business Unit at RUAG Space.
Three mechanisms for Webb’s scientific instruments
In addition, RUAG Space was responsible for three crucial mechanisms for two of the telescope’s four scientific instruments. Two high-precision mechanisms for the telescope’s “super eye”, called NIRSpec, were developed, built and tested at the RUAG Space site in Vienna, Austria. This includes the mechanical support structures and special ball bearings of the two filter systems called the instrument filter wheel assembly. The 200 kilogram “super eye” – one of two European contributions to the mission – can detect the weakest infrared radiation from the most distant galaxies. Designed to observe 100 objects simultaneously, eThe NIRSpec will be the first spectrograph in space with this remarkable multi-object capability.
a An extremely versatile instrument, the second European “MIRI” (Mid Infrared Range Instrument), will support the four scientific themes of JWST. The instrument contamination control cover was developed by RUAG Space in Zurich, Switzerland, and delivered in 2008. It will protect MIRI from external contamination during the test cooling phase and after launch. In addition, this cryo-mechanism acts as an optical shutter for the instrument to allow on-board calibration and to protect the detectors from bright objects. MIRI will help to see the first generations of galaxies born after the Big Bang.
Crucial products for a successful launch
During assembly and before the final launch of the JWST aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, a rotary and tilt device developed and produced by RUAG Space in Vienna, allows engineers to work on the telescope from all sides. As needed, the trolley moves the telescope in a vertical or horizontal position. RUAG Space has already delivered more than 80 “multi-purpose trolleys”, which can rotate and tilt a satellite, to customers in Europe and the United States.
The top of the Ariane 5 rocket consists of the RUAG Space payload fairing. It protects the JWST during takeoff and its journey through the atmosphere. The 17-meter-high structure was produced at the company’s site in Emmen, Switzerland. The Webb’s sun visor – as large as a tennis court – was specially designed to fold up and fit inside the 5.4 meter diameter fairing. “Our fairing was tailor-made for this valuable payload,” says Holger Wentscher, who heads the Launchers business unit at RUAG Space. “The new hardware ensures that the ventilation holes around the base of the fairing remain fully open. This will minimize the depressurization shock when the fairing is jettisoned away from the launcher. “
En route to space, the launcher is controlled by a RUAG Space on-board computer (“brain”). Once the payload reaches a certain height, the two halves of the payload fairing are separated and released from the launcher. The corresponding separation system was manufactured by RUAG Space in Linköping, Sweden. At a later stage, this separation system (payload adapter) makes it possible to separate the JWST from the launcher.
JWST: Studying the beginning of galaxies, stars and life
Named after James E. Webb, director of NASA between 1961 and 1968, the JWST will directly observe a part of space and time never seen before. Webb will look at the time when the very first stars and galaxies were formed, over 13.5 billion years ago. The ultraviolet and visible light emitted by the very first luminous objects was stretched or “redshifted” by the continued expansion of the universe and arrives today as infrared light. Webb is designed to “see” this infrared light with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity. The Webb has four scientific missions: to find the first stars and galaxies, to understand how galaxies evolved, to observe the formation of new stars and new solar systems, and to analyze the planets neighboring Earth for their chemical properties and signs of life. The main instrument of JWST is an infrared telescope with a main reflector 6.5 meters in diameter. Unlike its predecessor Hubble, which observes the universe from a height of a few hundred kilometers above Earth, the JWST will orbit a point 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. This will keep the spacecraft in the same relative position with respect to the Sun and the Earth to keep the telescope’s temperature very low behind its large solar shield. This is necessary for sensitive Webb instruments to function properly.
“All the amazing scientific data from the telescope will be transferred to Earth via our antennas”, Says Anders Linder, Senior Vice President Satellites at RUAG Space. Copyright: RUAG Space, Peter Nilsson. To download:
In addition to the payload fairing, the separation system and the on-board computer of the Ariane 5 launcher, the company delivered the antennas for the transmission of data to Earth, the ground support equipment as well as three mechanisms for two of the telescope’s scientific instruments. Download the infographic:https://www.ruag.com/system/
Once in orbit, the RUAG Space payload shroud is split into two halves and jettisoned from the launcher, allowing the James Webb telescope to be separated from the launcher at a later date. Copyright: ESA / D. Ducros. To download: https://www.esa.int/ESA_
Media contacts Espace RUAG:
RUAG International media contact:Clemens Gähwiler, Head of External Communications, RUAG International, [email protected], T: +41 76 319 28 58
RUAG Space: leading supplier to the space industry
RUAG Space, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, is the leading supplier to the space industry in Europe with a growing presence in the United States. Approximately 1,300 employees in six countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, the United States and Finland) develop and manufacture satellite and launch vehicle products – both for the institutional and commercial space markets.
RUAG Space is part of RUAG International, a Swiss technology group with production sites in 14 countries, which is divided into four divisions: Space, Aerostructures, MRO International and Ammotec. RUAG International employs around 6,000 people. www.ruag.com
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