A big, bright James Webb Space Telescope “STTARS” is now deep in the heart of Texas. The Space Telescope Transporter for Air Road and Sea (STTARS) is a giant white shipping container with a very important cargo: a test model of part of the Webb telescope, called the “Pathfinder Backplane.”
The Pathfinder Backplane is a practice section of the James Webb Space Telescope. To ensure the telescope will operate at its frigid destination 1 million miles out in space, it must complete cryogenic tests. The biggest cryogenic test occurs at Chamber A at Johnson, the same vacuum chamber where Apollo spacecraft were tested.
“The James Webb Space Telescope is the biggest telescope for space that’s ever been built,” said Andrew Booth, pathfinder lead optical engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
But its enormous size means special accommodations to move it halfway across the country. Enter STTARS.
“The major challenge in this transport is the size,” said Adam Carpenter, one of the mechanical integration engineers on the STTARS team. “The container weighs 165,000 pounds. There is a tremendous amount of planning going through this move.”
The journey began in a clean room at Goddard. The massive shipping container entered the clean room floating on air pads, like a puck on an air hockey table. Then engineers lifted and lowered the 3,000-pound honeycombed Pathfinder Backplane by crane into the container.
Read more: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/texas-has-new-big-bright-webb-sttars/#.VOtRXMZBHDM
Interior C-5: NASA/Desiree Stover
Exterior C-5: NASA/Chris Gunn