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Your Body is Wired Like a NASA Space Telescope. Sort Of

Your Body is Wired Like a NASA Space Telescope. Sort Of

A group of people wearing white clean room suits with hoods and blue gloves work in a circle at the base of a tall, silver-and-gold structure laced with wiring. Behind them, on the right, is an eight-story white wall with blue stripes and a glass window. The left, far wall is covered in pale, square filters. Credit: NASA/Chris GunnALT

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope’s flight harness is transferred from the mock-up structure to the spacecraft flight structure.

Your Body is Wired Like a NASA Space Telescope. Sort Of.

If our Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope were alive, its nervous system would be the intricate wiring, or “harness,” that helps different parts of the observatory communicate with one another. Just like the human body sends information through nerves to function, Roman will send commands through this special harness to help achieve its mission: answering longstanding questions about dark energy, dark matter, and exoplanets, among other mind-bending cosmic queries. 

Roman’s harness weighs around 1,000 pounds and is made of about 32,000 wires and 900 connectors. If those parts were laid out end-to-end, they would be 45 miles long from start to finish. Coincidentally, the human body’s nerves would span the same distance if lined up. That’s far enough to reach nearly three-fourths of the way to space, twice as far as a marathon, or eight times taller than Mount Everest! 

Seen from above, two individuals wearing white clean room suits with hoods and blue gloves work inside of a large, silvery metal structure with a hexagonal shape and a large cylindrical hole, covered in a diamond-patterned texture. Red and white wire bundles of cables drape across the top of the structure like strands of spaghetti. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn ALT

An aerial view of the harness technicians working to secure Roman’s harness to the spacecraft flight structure.

Over a span of two years, 11 technicians spent time at the workbench and perched on ladders, cutting wire to length, carefully cleaning each component, and repeatedly connecting everything together.  

Space is usually freezing cold, but spacecraft that are in direct sunlight can get incredibly hot. Roman’s harness went through the Space Environment Simulator – a massive thermal vacuum chamber – to expose the components to the temperatures they’ll experience in space. Technicians “baked” vapors out of the harness to make sure they won’t cause problems later in orbit.  

Seen from below, two individuals wearing white clean room suits with hoods and blue gloves work inside of a silvery cylindrical metal structure. Seven bright lights mounted to the ceiling shine down onto them. Credit: NASA/Chris GunnALT

Technicians work to secure Roman’s harness to the interior of the spacecraft flight structure. They are standing in the portion of the spacecraft bus where the propellant tanks will be mounted.  

The next step is for engineers to weave the harness through the flight structure in Goddard’s big clean room, a space almost perfectly free of dust and other particles. This process will be ongoing until most of the spacecraft components are assembled. The Roman Space Telescope is set to launch by May 2027. 

Learn more about the exciting science this mission will investigate on X and Facebook. 

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