NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope team has begun the important process of integrating and testing the spacecraft’s electrical cabling, or harness. This harness plays a crucial role in connecting the various components of the observatory, since it enables different parts of the observatory to communicate with one , while alsoanother providing power and helping the central computer monitor the observatory’s function via an array of sensors. Thus, this important step brings the mission a step closer to its launch by May 2027, when it will survey billions of cosmic objects and untangle mysteries like dark energy.
According to Deneen Ferro, the Roman harness project development lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, “Just as the nervous system carries signals throughout the human body, Roman’s harness connects its components, providing both power and commands to each electronic box and instrument. Without a harness, there is no spacecraft.” Clearly then, the successful integration and testing of the harness is an essential prerequisite for the mission’s eventual launch in 2027.
The construction of the harness for this project was a massive undertaking. Weighing in at 1,000 pounds and made up of 32,000 wires and 900 connectors, it was a complex piece of engineering. If laid out end to end, the wires would stretch 45 miles. And if pointed upwards, the wires would reach 8 times higher than the peak of Mount Everest. It took a team of 11 Goddard technicians approximately two years to create this masterpiece. Each component had to be meticulously cleaned and cut to length before it could be connected together.
The entire harness for the Roman Space Telescope was built on an observatory mock-up structure before being transported to the Goddard Space Environment Simulator (GSES) for a “bakeout”. This process in GSES is used to eliminate any potential harmful vapors that could be released in space, leading to short circuits or deposits on optics that would degrade the telescope’s performance. Following the bakeout, engineers will then weave the harness through the flight structure in the big clean room at Goddard. This intricate process will need to be completed for most of the spacecraft components, and then can begin to power them with electronics boxes. With this vital step of crafting harnesses now complete, the Roman Space Telescope is another step closer to being launched and fulfilling its mission to uncover new insights and discoveries about our universe.Jp