How Utahns helped launch the James Webb Space Telescope

The world recently got a glimpse of something we’ve never seen before: the deepest, sharpest infrared image of the early universe ever taken. And all thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope.

It’s a magnificent achievement, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of several Utahns – all of whom deserve some recognition:


Working with NASA nearly 20 years ago, Materion has designed a special grade of gas atomized beryllium from an ore mine at Spor Mountain in Juab County – to build the telescope. Beryllium is a third lighter than aluminum, extremely rigid and stable at very low temperatures. This metal has helped scientists design the telescope’s primary, secondary and tertiary mirror segments that allow us to see deeper into the universe.

“If it weren’t for the beryllium mined in Utah, you wouldn’t be seeing the pictures you see today,” says Keith Smith, vice president of nuclear and science at Materion. “I’ve been working on this for 25 years…everything good is worth the wait. And, across the company, we’re all so excited.

Materion also provided high-tech metals that make up the telescope’s power-generating solar panels, new strips for the NIRCam instrument, filters for the near-infrared imager and slitless spectrograph, and NIRCam coronagraphic blackout masks. that help block things that scientists don’t. need to see.

Through partnerships with federal, state and local partners, Materion was able to mine and process beryllium while reclaiming its land and creating a strong local workforce.

“Materion has been great for the Delta community and for Utah in general,” says Tom Henry, global operations sustainability manager for Materion. “We are really proud of the work done here.

We are continually impressed with the cutting-edge technology of Materion engineers and grateful for the hard-working teams that help deliver these materials!


Moxtek also contributed the revolutionary mirror for the James Webb Space Telescope.

The company based in Orem collaborated with 4D Technology in Arizona to develop a pixelated metal-grid polarizer used to measure the flatness and quality of telescope mirrors.

Moxtek became involved in this project more than ten years ago when NASA approached 4D Technology to develop an optical tool to measure the flatness of the JWST telescope mirrors. 4D Technology has successfully developed its approach using Moxtek’s advanced pixelated polarizer.

“There’s so much we don’t know about the universe that we’re going to learn from this telescope, and we at Moxtek are very proud of our contribution to this project,” said Shaun Ogden, senior product manager at Moxtek. . . “Without Moxtek’s polarizers, measuring the telescope mirrors with the required precision would not have been possible.”

Moxtek’s products have been used more than 10 times by NASA and the European Space Agency for spaceflight. We are grateful for this collaborative effort and look forward to seeing what else Moxtek accomplishes in the future.

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman, Utah’s largest aerospace and defense company, also played a significant role in the production of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Northrop Grumman worked with aerospace manufacturer Orbital ATK, then based in Magna, to build the backplane structure that holds the telescope’s mirrors and optical instruments in place.

“Northrop Grumman is proud to lead our industry partners in the design, construction and total system integration of the observatory,” said Tom Wilson, vice president and president of space systems business, Northrop Grumman. “We are opening a new era of space exploration with [the telescope images]through groundbreaking engineering and partnership with NASA and the scientific community.

Northrop Grumman has since acquired Orbital ATK and continues to work with NASA on projects that Utahns — and people around the world — can be proud of.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, created in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, launched on December 25, 2021 from European Spaceport in French Guiana, South America.

After completing a complex deployment sequence in space, the telescope underwent months of commissioning where its mirrors were aligned and its instruments were calibrated for its space environment and prepared for science. All this led to the breathtaking images published on July 12, 2022.

Congratulations to everyone who put in so much effort. This administration joins the world in celebrating the science that brought us this incredible imagery.

Thank you all and keep up the good work!


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