The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's new Wide Field/Planetary Camera, designed to replace the current camera on board NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, was shipped yesterday from JPL, two years after major redesign changes began in August 1991.
The camera will be delivered to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where it will be tested with spacecraft and ground system simulators before being shipped to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the space shuttle, said Larry Simmons, WF/PC-2 program manager at JPL.
"The Wide Field/Planetary Camera-2 was designed to restore nearly all of the original imaging capability lost when an optical flaw was discovered in the Hubble telescope's primary mirror," Simmons said. "We modified the camera's internal relay optics and made several other design changes to enhance WF/PC-2's overall imaging capability."
Four small relay mirrors inside the camera's four optical trains have been polished to a new prescription that will cancel the error in the curvature of the Hubble Space Telescope's primary mirror by creating an error of equal and opposite magnitude, Simmons said.
Small actuators will fine-tune the alignment of these mirrors on orbit, assuring the optical quality that will be required to image fine detail in star clusters, distant galaxies and objects in the ultraviolet.
After the camera has been tested at Goddard, it will be delivered in mid-September to Kennedy Space Center, where it will be readied for a Dec. 2 launch aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.
The camera is scheduled to be installed on the orbiting telescope on the third day of astronaut extravehicular activities during STS-61, the first of several Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions designed to replace major components of the space telescope and science instruments.
About one month after installation, the new camera will be ready to begin imaging science targets with its three wide-field camera systems and one planetary camera system. The wide-field cameras will provide extraordinary sensitivity for the detection of star clusters and distant galaxies, while the planetary camera will perform high-resolution studies of individual objects, including planets and their satellites, nearby galaxies and other stellar objects.
WF/PC-2 will able to detect objects 100 times fainter than those visible from Earth-based telescopes, with about 10 times greater spatial resolution. The camera also has the unique capability of imaging in the far ultraviolet, a capability that is impossible from ground-based telescopes and limited, at best, from space.
The Wide Field/Planetary Camera-2 was designed and built by the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science.
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