Farewell MIRI: pioneering space camera en route to NASA
Today (9 May) marks the culmination of a project over a decade in the making: the UK-led Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) has been declared ready for delivery by the European Space Agency and NASA and today starts its transatlantic trip to the USA at a handover ceremony at the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London.
MIRI is the first of the four instruments on board the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – the successor to Hubble - to be completed. The MIRI Optical System is a pioneering camera and spectrometer, so sensitive it could see a candle on one of Jupiter’s moons. It will now be shipped to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where it will be integrated with the other three instruments and the telescope.
Personnel from the University’s Space Research Centre and X-ray and Observational Astronomy Research Group, have been heavily involved as members of the team conducting the intensive cryogenic test programme – spending many days and nights at the RAL Space facility in Oxfordshire during the three-month campaign in 2011.
Engineers from the University’s Space Research Centre have also provided leadership of the mechanical engineering design and construction of MIRI over the last decade, and are heavily involved in the task of ensuring that this delicate instrument, weighing around 100 kg, can be safely transported from the UK to the USA. They will continue to play a key role during the testing of JWST in the USA over the next few years.