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Phil's Vid-Minute: the Afterlife of the Space Shuttle

Now that NASA is retiring the space shuttle, we ought to start thinking of how to repurpose the thing

1 min read

Cast-off industrial apparatus lives on in new forms—the diner car became the diner restaurant; the beaker becomes the shot glass; the tunnel for the atom smasher becomes a mushroom farm. Why not turn the space shuttle into a bar, as in Star Wars, or a honeymoon hotel?

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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