STScI NIRSpec team members Diane Karakla and Karrie Gilbert presented NIRSpec development work at the IAU General Assembly meeting in Honolulu in August.
The NIRSpec instrument is getting prepared for the ISIM Cryo-vac 3 testing at Goddard, scheduled to begin in October.
NIRSpec now has its flight detectors installed, as well as new Micro-Shutter Arrays. In both cases the new devices are better than the previous items. These new devices will be tested later this year during the Cryo-Vac 3 (CV3) test at Goddard. Due to a series of mishaps, NIRSpec had a failure of one electronics board in the Micro-shutter Control Electronics (MCE). That board is being prefabricated and should be available in late April. Meanwhile, NIRCam has been replaced in ISIM and NIRSpec is to follow soon.
At STScI we are working on the ground systems that are needed to plan observations, turn those into spacecraft commands, provide the data reduction and archiving pipelines. We are also preparing to support proposers and users and to calibrate all the instruments.
By late September NIRSpec had completed a series of operational tests at Goddard Space Flight Center. These tests included all of JWST's instruments, assembled for the first time in the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM). This ISIM test cooled the instruments to about 40 K, the expected operation temperature for JWST's instruments once the telescope is launched. This test was successful in providing critical information on how the instruments work individually and together. Following these tests, ISIM was removed from the vacuum chamber and taken apart.
NIRSpec is due to get new sets of detectors and micro-shutter arrays (MSAs) in December of this year. Those new items will be the ones that NIRSpec flies with and are improvements over the parts now in the instrument. Next year there will again be a full test of all the instruments integrated as ISIM, and this time we expect to test scenarios that are similar to science observations after launch.
STScI staff worked with ESA scientists to support this year's ISIM tests over the summer and we will again next year. Meanwhile we have been planning and preparing the software that will enable users to create valid and efficient NIRSpec programs, helping to create the needed Exposure Time Calculators, and so on. The launch of JWST is set at four years from now, but before then many milestones must be reached in order to have an effective observatory as soon as possible.
The entire Integrated Science Instrument Module with NIRSpec in it is now being tested under operational conditions in "CV2" (Cryo-Vac Test 2). As of mid-July all the instruments have cooled to their operational temperatures near or below 40 K. ISIM now starts its Comprehensive Performance Test in which all the instruments are tested for functionality. Later tests will emulate the more varied observations expected when NIRSpec is operational. STScI NIRSpec staff will assist in these tests along with the ESA scientists and engineers.
At STScI, NIRSpec staff have been continuing to work on the many aspects of preparing to support science operations. That includes experiments with documentation and user information systems, observation modeling to simulate realistic instrument usage, and working with software developers on planning tools.
NIRSpec has been integrated into ISIM, making ISIM now complete. Basic functionality tests under ambient conditions have all been successful. As part of ISIM, NIRSpec will be extensively tested during CV2, which runs from mid-June to mid-September. Later this year, after CV2, new detectors and new MSAs will be installed in NIRSpec, leading up to the final ISIM test, CV3, in 2015.
December 2013 and January 2014
The STScI NIRSpec team held demonstration sessions at STScI and the AAS of our new prototype software for planning complex Multi-Object Spectroscopy observations with the NIRSpec Micro-Shutter Arrays.
The ESA NIRSpec Science Team has delivered the first Calibration Data Products package which includes reference files for all steps in the ramps-to-slopes pipeline developed at STScI. Work is now continuing on the NIRSpec spectroscopic pipeline to be delivered in Fall 2014.
The JWST NIRSpec instrument was shipped to the U.S. from the ESA Astrium test facility in Germany. It arrived at Baltimore's BWI airport on Sept. 20, 2013 and was transferred to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.