It’s not easy to model an 18-segment deployable and adjustable primary and secondary mirror and make sure that you’ve got all of the diffraction calculations done right. But that was the task:
- To be able to know the telescope is going to perform in all of the various ways the instrument is going to be used
- To know how the wavefront sensing and control system would start from a misaligned configuration
- And to be able to move through the sequence of all the various potential adjustments that would be needed to make the segmented telescope behave as if it were a perfect, unsegmented instrument
While our engineers could have used other tools on the market to help solve the optical modeling problem, we used our own Synopsys tools, not because we have to, but because they were the best for the job. In this case, CODE V® optical design software was the leading software tool to design the James Webb Space Telescope. Our Synopsys’ software, together with the great NASA team, and support from the PIT crew, proved to be the right mix. CODE V, the optical engineering tool of choice for most professional designers, has a proven history as the design tool for space telescopes: Spitzer, Lucy, OSIRUS-REx, the Chandra X-Ray telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope. In addition, CODE V was used to design and validate the corrective optics on the Hubble first servicing mission.
One key reason why CODE V is the software of choice: when test data is taken at different points in the field of view of a telescope, CODE V is beautifully suited to tell you how to fix something by adjusting mirrors—how much alignment is needed, where, and in which direction. The software allows you to realign and readjust optical hardware with a panache that no other software tool can provide. There are also benefits in the time you can save with the professional staff, putting the hardware together more quickly, instead of trying to figure out what went wrong and then adjusting accordingly. And, if you’re a program manager trying to put hardware together, saving two months of time in assembly is a very big deal.
With the James Webb Space Telescope, the whole operation worked together like a well-skilled orchestra, with every organization, every person, at the top of their game, using the best software, all playing together. And like a symphony, when all the pieces come together and it works, it’s thrilling.