The telescope element of Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has passed a critical design review.

The Webb Telescope is a next-generation space observatory, that will explore deep space phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets and stars.

The observatory will offer clues as to the formation of the universe and evolution of the solar system, from the big bang to the formation of star systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth.

The optical telescope element (OTE) built by Northrop includes a giant, 6.5m-diameter mirror, associated mirrors and support structures.

Northrop Aerospace Systems sector JWST programme manager Scott Willoughby said that completion of this review is significant because it provides validation that the telescope element design of the observatory meets all performance requirements.

“We can now finish building the optical telescope subsystems, integrate them and deliver the integrated OTE to integration and test for the entire observatory,” he said.

The OTE’s subsystems are in full production including the primary mirror segment assemblies, secondary mirror assemblies and aft optical assembly.

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The backbone of the telescope that supports all subsystems is in the early stages of production.

The second batch of three lightweight beryllium flight mirror segments have nearly completed cryotesting, while the first batch of the total of 18 flight mirror segments have been sent to undergo a series of cryotests and polishing.

An overall JWST mission review is scheduled for March 2010.