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NASA's “most powerful telescope ever” successfully passes the first critical software test

NASA reveals that the James Webb space telescope systems have successfully passed a critical test. After the US space agency's team of engineers tested the huge main mirror, experts spent more than 15 days checking whether the Hubble successor's software is ready for launch.

After making it known that the project had been temporarily paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team present at Northrop Grumman's facilities returned to work in May, albeit with fewer members than usual.

The agency explains that the Comprehensive Systems Test (CST) was the first real assessment of the telescope's systems. It is true that equipment performance tests have been carried out before, however, they were all carried out through simulations.

Tests like CST are important to determine if there are no structural flaws in the code that can lead to unexpected behavior on the part of systems. Thus, each code unit must be tested as it is written and then re-evaluated in combination with other components of the software.

To complete the assessment, the engineers carried out a total of 1,070 sequences of instructions, in a process with almost 1,370 steps. After passing the CST, the telescope prepares itself for a final set of tests that will simulate the conditions of the launch.

In the test carried out in April, specialists commanded the telescope's internal system to assume the configuration it will have when entering into orbit, with the main mirror having a total dimension of 6.5 meters. It was also possible to add a piece of equipment to the telescope's main mirror that is capable of simulating the zero-gravity environment found in space.

It is recalled that in January 2018, it was the turn of the NASA team to carry out a resistance test in low temperatures. At the time, the process was filmed and published in a timelapse where the nine months of preparation are presented in just over 90 seconds.

Although the launch of the James Webb telescope is scheduled for March 2021, NASA admits that the COVID-19 pandemic could change plans. The development team is now evaluating the impact of the situation, as well as the possible risks, and in July, deciding whether the departure for Space will even advance on the previously established date.