X-ray & Cryogenic Facility

Past Projects



NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched and deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999 is designed to observe X-rays from high-energy regions of the universe, such as the remnants of exploded stars.

The current XRCF was designed and constructed specifically to perform the ground calibration of the Chandra optics and science instruments.


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Cryo Mirror Development

The XRCF has supported mirror technology development programs such as the Sub-Scale Beryllium Mirror Demonstrator and the Advanced Mirror System Demonstrator.

Cryo-survival, cryo-conditioning, and cryo-optical performance data collected here directly informed the mirror architecture and manufacturing techniques of the James Webb Space Telescope.

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The Hinode Mission, a project to study the Sun, is exploring solar magnetic fields and improving our understanding of the mechanisms that power the solar atmosphere and drive solar eruptions.

Hinode’s X-ray Telescope was characterized and calibrated at the XRCF in 2005.


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Solar X-ray Imagers

Solar X-ray imagers (SXI) monitor the Sun’s X-rays for the early detection of solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other phenomena that impact the geospatial environment. This early warning is important because travelling solar disturbances affect not only the safety of humans in high-altitude missions, such as human spaceflight, but also military and commercial satellite communications.

Five SXI have been characterized and calibrated at the XRCF.

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Cryo Structural Tech Demos

Thermally-induced deformation of variious composite structures has been optically measured as the structures cooled to the extremely cold on-orbit temperatures.

Data acquired in these tests was used to refine and validate the designs of the James Webb Space Telescope’s backplane and integrated science instrument module’s support structure.

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JWST –  Primary Mirror Segment Assemblies

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) mirror testing is currently underway at the X-ray & Cryogenic Facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Under the direction of the Optics Office, each mirror segment is tested for distortion as it cools from room temperature to the telescope’s on-orbit operating temperature.

JWST will be the premiere observatory of the next decade. It will study every phase in the history of our universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of our solar system.

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JWST –  Primary Mirror Backplane Support Structure