NASA and IMAX team up for 3-D Hubble spacewalk

Chicago (IL)- NASA and IMAX have confirmed plans to document historic repairs of the Hubble Space Telescope. The resulting footage will be combined with detailed images of distant galaxies in “Hubble 3D” – a joint IMAX and Warner Bros production slated for release in spring 2010.

The shuttle commander and pilot are expected to double as filmmakers, while two teams of astronauts replace a number of precision instruments during five spacewalking missions.

“It’s been said that the IMAX experience is the next best thing to being in space, and with IMAX 3-D, the audience really is there,” said producer and director Toni Myers. “Fifteen years ago, we made a film about space exploration that included Hubble, when it started sending back the first images. Today, we have Hubble’s entire phenomenal legacy of data to explore. With IMAX 3-D, we can transport people to galaxies that are 13 billion light years away – back to the edge of time. Real star travel is here at last.”

Hubble was placed into orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery in April 1990. Since then, the telescope has undergone four servicing missions to repair various systems and flaws. However, the May spacewalks should allow Hubble to function until at least 2013, when its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is due to be launched.

The JWST is an “international collaboration” between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Northrop Grumman Space Technologies is currently the prime contractor for the telescope.

The company has already completed a preliminary design review of its sunshield membrane management subsystem, which will protect the JWST from high temperatures by blocking harsh solar light.

“The sunshield is designed to block solar light and keep the observatory operating at cryogenic temperatures. The [shield] will help enable the Webb Telescope’s infrared sensors to see distant galaxies, early stars and planetary systems, and help astronomers better understand dark matter,” explained Northrop spokesperson Sally Koris. “It’s a five-layer sunshield that consists of extremely thin membranes and a supporting structure composed of spreader bars and a large composite shell. The JWST sunshield will block the sun with a giant beach-umbrella-like sunshield the size of a tennis court. If you could imagine, this would be like an SPF of 1.2 million.”

Northrop has also supplied a cryocooler for Japan’s Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT), which was recently launched to study the negative affects of global warming. Similar, high temperature cryocoolers were manufactured for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R).

A number of future science missions are likely to benefit from cryocooler technology advancements, including the Single Aperture Far-Infrared Observatory, (SAFIR) and the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF).