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Space Systems


James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

Looking Back in Time to The Cosmic ‘Dark Ages’
By Roy Blake, Business Development Manager Space and Defence. Tekdata Interconnections limited.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s astronomical international collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and their partners have achieved very considerable accomplishments to date. The worlds astronomers eagerly await the launch; the telescope's four main science instruments are now all at GSFC as are its 18 mirror sections. When in space, they will create the largest orbiting observatory and mirror ever seen.

Tekdata Interconnections’ Cryoconnect group’s role in supplying the Webb Spacecraft platform’s massive harnesses, which link the spacecraft systems, supplying power and controlling data for the telescope’s alignment systems, is now completed. Under Contract to the prime contractor, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS), the harnesses are now being fully integrated onto the platform both at Space Park Redondo Beach, CA and at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre at Greenbelt, MD. The Pathfinder harnesses are scheduled this September to begin the thermal Pathfinder test, these will be carried out at JSC. Johnson Space Center’s Chamber A which is a 16.8 m (55 ft.) diameter x 27.4 m (90 ft.) high, thermal-vacuum test facility famous for testing the Apollo spacecraft with and without the mission crew.

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The journey began for Cryoconnect in 2007 with an initial invitation, followed by many conferences and technical proposals which culminated in being awarded the contract with NGAS. The award included thermal modelling, packaging technologies and qualifications supported by validations, assessments and characterizations. Also included were the development of test methods and tools to assess their reliability and implementation, all in readiness for manufacturability.

The challenges involved in building harness assemblies for space flight programs are complex, demanding and also fundamentally rewarding. The disciplines and complexities involved are based around clearly defined standards and materials. Science doesn’t stand still of course, new requirements do require new materials, validations, assessments and characterizations and the development of test methods/tools for the qualification for NASA projects. The electrical harnesses being among the most complex of equipment exclusively manufactured with passive components.

JWST required the implementation of conductors with resistive alloys and stainless steel shielding complimented by passive strain relieved 360-degree RFI/EMC Faraday cage shielded backshells required further comprehensive engineering qualifications. Previous space missions using these techniques include Herschel and Planck.

We qualified seven new cable type constructions, the mass, materials, and electrical performance, including dynamic considerations relating to deployment needed to be approved by NASA GSFC. Engineering qualifications (EQ) included thermal conductance, torque, vibration, cryo-cycling, bakeout, X-ray and DPA analysis.

NIRCam: The Near Infrared Camera, is Webb's primary imager that will cover the infrared wavelength range 0.6 to 5 microns. It is also unique in that it will also be used to align the optical telescope element (OTE) and phase its primary mirror segments. NIRCam will detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies in the process of formation; the population of stars in nearby galaxies; as well as young stars in the Milky Way and Kuiper Belt objects.

Developed and built by a team at the University of Arizona (UoA), JPL and a consortium of universities and built by Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center.

NIRSpec: The Near-Infrared Spectrograph is a near infrared multi-object dispersive spectrograph capable of simultaneously observing more than 100 sources over a field-of-view (FOV) larger than 3' x 3', NIRSpec will be the first spectrograph in space that has this capability. Targets in the Field of View will enable large spectroscopic surveys of faint galaxies at high redshift, obtain sensitive spectra of transiting exoplanets and image line emission from protoplanetary disks and protostars.

Developed and built for the European Space Agency (ESA) by a consortium of European universities and companies led by EADS Astrium Gmbh. Two of its sub-systems (detectors and micro-shutters) are provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s science goals and design features have been and are well described elsewhere:

JWST Mission Goals.

JWST for Scientists: 
Search for the first galaxies or luminous objects formed after the Big Bang. 
Determine how galaxies evolved from their formation until now. 
Observe the formation of stars from the first stages to the formation of planetary systems. 
Measure the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems, including our own Solar System, and investigate the potential for life in those systems. 

The flight model and flight spare manufacturing procedures for electrical interconnections for Space applications are defined well and understood. These follow the mandatory NASA paths from Critical Design Review (CDR) through all the intermediate stages to Product Pre-Delivery Review (PPR) and final End Item Data Packs (EIDP) complete with the Test Data files, for the flight assemblies alone this amounted to 14.72GB of delivered data.

Cryoconnect selected and placed a contract with RALSpace, part of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, to work with us on the validation, qualification and test program requirements which were carried out on the Harwell Campus at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Cryoconnect being the first commercial customer to use their new £24M R100 AIV (Assembly, Integration and Verification) Space Development and Test Facility.

Our relationship with RAL (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) goes back over 36 years, we are currently working together on two further space programs.

Cryoconnect also manufactured and supplied harness assemblies for the NIRCam, NIRSpec and MIRI programs, the four primary instruments for the James Webb Space Telescope’s scientific program which will be capable of examining every phase of cosmic history.

FGS/NIRISS: The Fine Guidance Sensor/Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, Webb to point precisely, so that it can obtain high-quality images. The Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph part of the FGS/NIRISS will be used to investigate the following science objectives: first light detection, exoplanet detection and characterization, and exoplanet transit spectroscopy. FGS/NIRISS has a wavelength range of 0.8 to 5.0 microns, a specialized instrument with three main modes, each of which addresses a separate wavelength range.

Developed and built by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) built and tested for the CSA by COM DEV International with technical contributions from the Université de Montréal and National Research Council Canada.

MIRI: The Mid-Infrared Instrument, provides imaging, coronagraphy and integral field spectroscopy over the 5-28-micron wavelength range. MIRI’s goals include detecting the first episode of star formation, determining the formation history of galaxies, clarifying the processes of star and planet formation, seeking out new planets that can later be investigated for their potential to support life.

Developed and built by a partnership between Europe and the USA - the main partners are ESA, a consortium of 10 member countries led by the UK’s ATC and RALSpace, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).


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EuclidESA’s Cornerstone Missions


Tekdata's Cryoconnect is under contract with Thales Alenia Space to build cryogenic harnesses for ESA's M Class Mission EUCLID.

Euclid is an ESA mission to map the geometry of the dark Universe. The mission will investigate the distance-redshift relationship and the evolution of cosmic structures by measuring shapes and redshifts of galaxies and clusters of galaxies out to redshifts ~2, or equivalently to a look-back time of 10 billion years. In this way, Euclid will cover the entire period over which dark energy played a significant role in accelerating the expansion.

Solar Orbiter and SPICE

Cryoconnect have supplied harnesses for the SPICE instrument for Solar Orbiter. 

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