Ball Delivers Space Telescope Software

September 15, 2011

The Wavefront Sensing & Control algorithms will help to precisely align and adjust the James Webb Space Telescope's 18 1.3-m hexagonal primary mirror segments to perform as a single mirror and compensate for optical distortions.

BOULDER, CO -- Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has delivered Wavefront Sensing & Control (WFS&C) software for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to prime contractor Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. The WFS&C software contains the sophisticated mathematical algorithms that will be used to align and phase the telescope's eighteen 1.3-m hexagonal primary mirror segments to perform as a single monolithic mirror.

From the outset of the JWST program, WFS&C was identified as a key new technology. Due to its size, the Webb telescope must be launched in a stowed configuration and aligned on orbit. This design feature has contributed to the critical accuracy required of WFS&C software, which was rigorously tested using Ball's fully functional, one-sixth scale Webb Telescope Testbed, as well as detailed computer simulations of the future observatory.

The WFS&C software package is designed to provide vital flexibility in control of the telescope optics to optimize system performance on orbit, even in the presence of unforeseen problems. In addition to co-phasing the individual segments to operate as a single mirror, the software allows the primary mirror segments and the secondary mirror to be adjusted from the ground, to compensate for optical distortions that may occur in the observatory throughout the life of the mission.

"The world-class optical system Ball is providing for the Webb Telescope draws on our extensive experience providing space hardware for NASA's observatories," said David L. Taylor, President and CEO of Ball Aerospace. "And much like the unexpected benefits from technology developed for Hubble, the Webb's wavefront sensing technology is already being used in new commercial applications."

On September 13, 2011, NASA announced the completion of the mirror coating process at Quantum Coating Inc., in Moorestown, N.J., marking yet another major milestone in development of the Webb Telescope.

Ball Aerospace is the principal optical subcontractor for the JWST program, led by prime contractor Northrop Grumman Space Technology, under a contract from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, MD. Delivery of the advanced software marks the culmination of a decade-long effort.

About Ball Aerospace
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions of important national agencies, such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA, and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems, and RF solutions for strategic, tactical, and scientific applications.

About Ball
Ball Corp. is a supplier of high-quality packaging for beverage, food, and household products customers, and of aerospace and other technologies and services, primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corp. and its subsidiaries employ more than 14,500 people worldwide and reported 2010 sales of more than $7.6 billion.

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