NASA Roman mission completes key optical components

(ORDO NEWS) — Engineers from Ball Aerospace, one of the industrial partners of NASA‘s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, completed the setup and alignment of the Wide Field Instrument (WFI).

The assembly contains eight scientific filters, two scattering elements (grating and prism) and an “empty” element (used for internal calibration). The telescope is scheduled to be launched by May 2027.

After the light is reflected and focused by Roman’s primary and secondary mirrors, it will pass through the WFI element wheel.

The focused and filtered light then hits a large detector array where an image is created.

Depending on what researchers are looking for, scientific filters will allow astronomers to select specific wavelengths of light for their observations.

The grating and prism are instruments for spectroscopy. They have been manufactured and tested by Optimax, Jenoptik and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The team simulated space conditions in a vacuum vessel where the temperature was reduced to around minus 123 degrees Celsius.

Because most materials expand when heated and contract when cooled, the engineers needed to ensure that the optics at Roman’s ultra-cold operating temperature would perform as intended.

Both the grating and the prism passed the test, and the test images showed minimal distortion. Astronomers will use these components to study some of the biggest mysteries in the universe.

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