Scientists and engineers complete testing for space technology for the next decade

A UK team - including scientists from the University – has returned from a series of rigorous tests carried out on instrumentation for the premier space observatory of the next decade.

Despite 20ft high snow drifts, power outages and severe thunderstorms, the University scientists and engineers helped to get the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) through its third campaign of testing at the NASA Goddard Space test facility.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in October 2018 it will be the premier space observatory of the next decade. Just like its predecessor the Hubble Space Telescope did in 1990, JWST will provide astronomers with an unprecedented new capability to observe even more distant objects in the farthest depths of the Cosmos.

On-board this amazing telescope will be a suite of four instruments which will be contained within the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM). MIRI is one of these instruments and was developed within a collaboration between ESA and NASA. The UK team is made up of a partnership between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), University of Leicester and Airbus Defence and Space with funding from the UK Space Agency.

The University are leading the overall structural and mechanical engineering work for MIRI, provide support during cold tests, and are involved in the MIRI teams planning for the scientific observations after launch.

Jon Sykes, the University Space Research Centre’s Senior Mechanical Engineer provided the on-site UK support for ISIM vibration testing at NASA. Although tests, which spanned three weeks, were held up by several spectacular thunderstorms, and the associated significant risk of a power outage, the whole ISIM structure behaved superbly throughout the test.

Mr Sykes, said: “These test results are a great testament to the way that the MIRI team, other instrument teams and the ISIM team have worked together to produce a system that performs brilliantly and is so well characterised and understood."