Rehearsing for Launch
Explore the Webb Mission Operations Center to learn how our engineers are preparing for the communications and collaborations for successful launch and commissioning.
The Flight Operations Team has been preparing to fly the James Webb Space Telescope for several years now. Regular rehearsals, conducted in partnership with NASA and our mission partners, enable the team to practice routine and scheduled operations, such as monitoring systems and making course corrections. Rehearsals also provide essential experience analyzing and responding to possible anomalies: unexpected events on the observatory or on the ground that could disrupt operations. With every rehearsal, there are consistent outcomes: the team’s communication and performance improve, ensuring that when commissioning begins, they are fully prepared for operations. Explore Webb’s Mission Operations Center to learn how our engineers collaborate in preparation for launch.
Flight Control Room
Engineers in the Flight Control Room are responsible for monitoring various systems on the observatory, communicating problems to specialists in the Back Room, and transmitting operational commands to the observatory.
Engineers on the Front Row monitor the general health and safety of the spacecraft and execute all commands.
The Ground Systems Engineer monitors connections to the Deep Space Network, verifies file transfers of scheduled command files, and ensures the link to the spacecraft.
The Operations Controller monitors telemetry, reports issues to the Mission Operations Manager, and directs the operations of the Command Controller and Ground Systems Engineer.
The Command Controller monitors telemetry, reports issues to the Operations Controller, uploads scheduled command files, and sends individual commands to the observatory.
Flight system engineers who typically work in the Back Room may operate in the middle row of the Flight Control Room during critical operations.
When needed, a Subject Matter Expert for a particular subsystem may be called to oversee specific critical operations.
Engineers in the back row lead and manage mission operations.
Mission Operations Managers facilitate and oversee all operations for Webb, and serve as the decision authority for planning and operations on behalf of the observatory.
The NASA Project Manager is responsible for major Go/No-Go decisions, and makes the final decisions for anomaly resolution.
Teams of Flight Systems Engineers from Northrop Grumman, NASA, STScI, as well as various academic, industrial, and international partners analyze and solve issues that arise in the power, control, software, scientific instrument, and other subsystems of the observatory. After receiving an anomaly alert via the Flight Control Room, engineers determine the cause of the problem, design a solution, and deliver instructions to be implemented by the controllers—just as they will once the observatory is in flight.
Rehearsal Anomaly Team
To train the flight operations team to successfully identify and resolve unexpected problems, the Rehearsal Anomaly Team from Northrup Grumman simulates a variety of anomalies that could occur during commissioning. From cruise ships entering the launch zone or fire evacuations within the building to antenna-pointing errors or temperature irregularities, anomaly scenarios provide the flight operations team with essential practice recognizing and characterizing issues, and then communicating effectively to continue operations.
Backup Mission Operations Center
A backup team of flight control engineers is on hand at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In the event of a control center anomaly, such as an evacuation or loss of power, this team will take over operations. Control is passed back to the institute’s Mission Operations Center when the required systems and personnel are back online.
Mission Planners schedule contacts between the observatory, flight controllers, and the Deep Space Network; assist with the commissioning timeline; and design rehearsal scripts.