Webb Telescope mirrors crafted at General Dynamics in Cullman

Mirrors are crucial to producing deep space images now being transmitted to Earth

An image of the James Webb Space Telescope. Image courtesy of NASA

Workers at General Dynamics in Cullman have crafted the mirrors that are helping the James Webb Space Telescope capture stunning photos from space — photos that have been capturing the imagination of the world since they begin to be distributed this week.

General Dynamics Precision Structures & Optics team in Cullman delivered the ultralightweight beryllium mirrors that are central to capturing Webb Space Telescope images.

The Cullman team began work on the project in 1998, building the first of the test mirrors — Sub-scale Beryllium Mirror Demonstrator. It measured half a meter and weighed less than 12 kilograms per square mirror, with all its support structure on the back of the mirror.

Next, the team created the Advanced Mirrors System Demonstrator — a hexagon measuring 1.2 meters.

“In total, the Cullman team contributed 21 primary mirror segments weighing less than 46 pounds (18 mirrors and three spares), two secondary mirrors, 21 delta frames and 10 various aft optical components,” General Dynamics said in a news release about the work.

The team also made beryllium panels for the Near Infrared Camera, designed to “detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies in the process of formation, the population of stars in nearby galaxies, as well as young stars in the Milky Way and Kuiper Belt objects.”

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General Dynamics teams in Maryland also provided pre-launch support and other services.

General Dynamics purchased the Cullman group from Connecticut-based Axsys Technologies in 2009 for $643 million.

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