Northrop Grumman, ATK complete flight backplane section of NASA's Webb Telescope


WASHINGTON, 25 April 2012. Engineers at Northrop Grumman Corp. in Redondo Beach, Calif., and ATK in Magna, Utah, have completed the center section of the backplane structure that will fly on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

Construction of the center section marks an important milestone in the telescope's hardware development. The backplane supports the telescope's beryllium mirrors, instruments, and thermal control systems.

Northrop Grumman won a contract from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to design and develop Webb's sunshield, telescope, and spacecraft. ATK manufactured 1,781 composite parts for the center section using lightweight graphite materials and advanced manufacturing techniques, says a company representative.

"Completing the center section of the backplane is an important step in completing the sophisticated telescope structure," explains Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for the Webb telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "This fabrication success is the result of innovative engineering dating back to the technology demonstration phase of the program."

The center section is the primary mirror backplane support structure and the first of the three sections of the backplane to be completed. The center segment will hold Webb's 18-segment, 21-foot-diameter primary mirror virtually motionless. Measuring approximately 24 by 12 feet and weighing 500 pounds, the center section of the backplane meets thermal stability requirements.

The backplane holds the alignment of the telescope's optics through the rigors of launch and over a wide range of operating temperatures, which reach as cold as -406 degrees Fahrenheit. During science operations, the backplane precisely keeps the 18 primary mirror segments in place, permitting the mirrors to form a single shape to take sharp images.

The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products


Master Bond’s silicones are available in both one part and two part versions that offer the advan...


Master Bond offers an extensive range of one and two part epoxies for a variety of applications a...

Light Curing Systems

Master Bond offers a large family of light curing products that cure upon exposure to a UV or LED...

Related Companies

Master Bond

For over 35 years, Master Bond has been supplying aerospace and defense manufacturers with custom formulated compound...


Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles