After the mission passed this milestone on Nov. 29, key instrument development got under way. For instance, the large radiators that will allow the system to be passively cooled are being fabricated. To detect the faint infrared glow of asteroids and comets, the instrument’s infrared detectors need to be much cooler than the spacecraft’s electronics. The radiators will perform that important task, eliminating the need for complex active cooling systems.
Additionally, construction of the composite struts that will separate the telescope’s instrumentation from the spacecraft has begun. Designed to be poor heat conductors, the struts will isolate the cold instrument from the warm spacecraft and sunshield, the latter of which will block sunlight that might otherwise obscure the telescope’s view of near-Earth objects and heat up the instrument.
Progress has also been made developing the instrument’s infrared detectors, beam splitters, filters, electronics, and enclosure. And work has begun on the space telescope’s mirror, which will be formed from a solid block of aluminum and shaped by a custom-built diamond-turning machine.
“The project team, including all of our institutional and industrial collaborators, is already very busy designing and fabricating components that will ultimately become flight hardware,” said Tom Hoffman, NEO Surveyor project manager at JPL. “As the mission enters this new phase, we’re excited to be working on this unique space telescope and are already looking forward to our launch and the start of our important mission.”