Developing Controlled Conductive Boundaries for JWST Cryogenic Testing
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In 2017, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) underwent functional testing and optical metrology verification of the combined Optical Telescope Element and Integrated Science Instrument Module (OTIS) under cryogenic vacuum conditions in Chamber A at the Johnson Space Center. Maintaining flight-like thermal boundary conditions was a critical requirement for optical testing and required unique and challenging ground support equipment (GSE) design solutions. Two such GSE systems, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) pre-cool straps and the hardpoint struts were direct conduction interfaces to the flight hardware. Hardware safety during cooldown required detailed design of their conductivity, and thermal balance testing required “zero-Q” (0-Q) heater implementation to bring the heat flow to zero, thereby cutting off these non-flight conductive links after operating temperatures were achieved. This paper describes the design considerations and approach implemented to achieve the required flight hardware cooldown and return to ambient conditions, ensure flight hardware safety, and minimize the non-flight-like heat flows to or from the observatory during cryo-stable testing.