James Webb Telescope carries Rochester engineers’ legacy into space

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A telescope that NASA launched into space over the weekend was crafted here in Rochester.

News10NBC’s Stephanie Duprey spoke with L3Harris Senior Optical Systems Engineer Conrad Wells, one of the lead engineers for the project, who talked about the process behind the lens.

The James Webb Telescope will sit in space for the next 30 days so it can have time to cool down to work. When its fully active scientists expect that it will be able to photograph some of the farthest places and oldest light in the universe.

"We put the telescope inside of this cryogenic vacuum chamber that they tested the Apollo spacecraft in, and it was Rochester mechanical engineers and electrical engineers and optical engineers that did all that work,” Wells said.

Using a series of mirrors, the Webb telescope will be able to snap images of some galaxies never seen before. Wells was the key piece to the puzzle, his job was to calculate how the mirrors will work.

"So our job at Johnson Space Flight Center was to test all 18 mirrors and an entire mirror and using the actuators that they had, to make sure that they were perfectly flat,” Wells said.

L3Harris in Rochester took the lead in testing for the flight telescope, which started in 2018. Wells said he moved from Rochester to Texas in 2014 to do that.

"The first one was 45 days, the second was 60 days, then it was 90 days, then the final test was 100 days long,” Wells added.

Wells said in about three months we could have never before seen images of space. He couldn’t give us too much detail, but the next mission that L3Harris is working on has something to do with gravity.