Vesper Inc. Completes First Phase of 3-D Shape Testing on Sunshield for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

Vesper, Inc. has finished its first phase of work on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope sunshield. Vesper designed and built specialized metrology inspection tooling to enable the sunshield measurements. Vesper's team has now measured two of the s

Vesper, Inc. has finished its first phase of work on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope sunshield. Awarded a contract in 2010, Vesper is performing shape and dimensional validation of the large sunshield membrane templates fabricated by ManTech International Corporation in Huntsville, Ala. for Webb design and engineering contractor Northrop Grumman Corp.

The five Webb sunshield layers, each the size of a tennis court, are made of specialized Kapton material, a very thin high-performance plastic with a reflective metallic coating. Once they are tensioned, the membranes are not flat, so their 3-D shape has to be measured carefully. The relative separations and alignments of each of the five membrane layers are a critical factor in achieving the desired cryogenic operating temperature of JWST's telescope and instruments.

"The lightweight material is challenging to measure, and we worked very closely with ManTech engineers to develop methods to measure the sunshield template layers with very high precision," said Eric Lundberg, Vesper Inc. chief executive officer. "We are proud to be part of the Webb team, ensuring that the 3-D shape of each sunshield layer will perform as intended in the challenging environment of deep space."

Vesper designed and built specialized metrology tooling to enable the sunshield measurements. Along with the ManTech engineering team, Vesper's team has now measured two of the sunshield layers under various conditions, to verify shape and dimensional specifications. All five flight-like sunshield templates, or test membranes, will be measured to ensure that the entire sunshield membrane system will perform as designed on orbit.

"Testing the full-size sunshield is a critical next step in demonstrating performance of the sunshield membrane and a significant milestone for Webb," said Greg Laue, ManTech Webb program manager. "Vesper is an integral part of our team and through the next year, we will continue to assemble and test all five flight-like template layers."

After all five layers of the full-size sunshield templates are completed and tested in Huntsville, they will be sent to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, Calif. for final assembly and additional testing.