Hubble Telescope’s successor passes first vision test

Engineers from L3Harris Technologies conducted the first optical test of the mirrors of the Roman Space Telescope. The test showed that they directed light at scientific instruments with high accuracy.

The optical system of the Roman telescope. Source: NASA/Chris Gunn

The Roman Space Telescope is designed to observe large-scale structures of the universe and study the influence of dark matter on galaxies. Another mission objective is to search for and obtain direct images of exoplanets.

How well Roman copes with these tasks will depend on the efficiency of its optics, of which mirrors are a key component. In total, Roman has ten mirrors, the main one of which has a diameter of 2.4 meters. It will provide the telescope with the ability to obtain images with similar detail as the famous Hubble.

Previously, each of the Roman mirrors had already been individually tested, but now, for the first time, engineers have tested how they will work together. It took them a month to properly align and position them. The test showed that mirrors could direct light at the Roman scientific instruments with the necessary accuracy.

Checking the optical system of the Roman telescope. Source: NASA/Chris Gunn

But this is only the first step. In the future, Roman will have to undergo a series of vibration and acoustic tests. Engineers will compare the measurement results before and after these tests to make sure that the optics will withstand the strong shaking and intense sound waves that will occur during launch. This will be followed by a final check in the cryogenic chamber, which is necessary to understand how the mirrors will behave in outer space.

At the moment, the launch of Roman is scheduled for the end of 2026, the first half of 2027. The telescope will be launched by a Falcon Heavy rocket into a halo orbit around the L2 point, where it will have to work for at least five years.

According to

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