m+p international: On a space mission

Success story

m+p international: On a space mission

How do galaxies form and is there extraterrestrial life? These are the questions explored by the James Webb Telescope - larger and more advanced than any before. The telescope's gaze reaches into the depths of the universe. Thanks in part to m+p international, the space mission is a complete success.

Secrets of the Universe

Media: Webb Discovers Methane, Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere of Exoplanet K2-18 b
Exoplanet K2-18 b (illustration). © NASA and STScI

On 25 December 2021, the time had come: the rocket with the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb for short) took off on its long journey from the European Space Centre in French Guiana. Around 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, the high-tech observatory has been illuminating our universe ever since. Using various measuring instruments for infrared radiation, Webb looks back 13.5 billion years into the past and thus makes hidden parts of space visible: stars shrouded in dust clouds, molecules in the atmosphere of other worlds and the light of the first stars and galaxies. Only recently, a spectacular observation of the exoplanet K2-18 b was made – carbon-containing molecules such as methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere indicate a water-covered surface (ESA – Webb discovers methane and carbon dioxide in atmosphere of K2-18 b).

Vibration test for space travel

For such a complex space mission to be successful, numerous tests are necessary to prepare the telescope for its journey and operation. This is where the INDUS subsidiary m+p international comes in, specialising among other things in vibration testing and acoustic testing procedures for aerospace. On the grounds of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Webb was subjected to such a test under special conditions: m+p Acoustic Control simulated the roar of an Ariane 5 launch with a deafening sound level of 142.5 decibels in a reverberation chamber.

Media: NASA Gives the Webb Telescope a Shakedown
Engineers and technicians perform vibration tests on the James Webb Space Telescope. The data recording and monitoring system from m+p international with 256 channels is in use. © NASA/Chris Gunn

And indeed, the stress tests brought a seemingly self-evident realisation: screws must be tight. During a vibration test, screws holding the cover of the telescope’s large, sensitive sunshade came loose. A disaster in an emergency. The m+p VibControl software, which monitored data streams from the acceleration sensors used, intervened immediately and activated the systems’ “soft shutdown” function. By shutting down the systems in a controlled manner, major damage to the ten billion dollar telescope could be prevented.

m+p international goes Hollywood

The exciting story about the James Webb Telescope can currently be seen in the Netflix documentary “Unknown – the Cosmic Time Machine”. m+p international is also represented here with its Acoustic Control System (minute 24:00). The documentary impressively shows how stress tests can save a space mission. Not only exciting for space fans…

NASA Videos:
Vibration Testing of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – YouTube
James Webb Space Telescope Acoustic Testing – YouTube
James Webb Space Telescope: Launch environment test complete – YouTube

Further information on m+p international: Acoustic Control | Reverberation Chambers | m+p (mpihome.com)

Cover image: © NASA and STScI

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