Webb Telescope successfully reveals the shape of a tennis court

The James Webb Space Telescope, which launched on Christmas Day, successfully completed the deployment of its 70-foot (21-meter) sunshield on Tuesday. This important milestone is one of many that must occur for the NASA observatory to function properly in space, and achieving it was a huge relief for the Webb team.

Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement, “Opening Webb’s sunshield into space is an incredible milestone, which is critical to the success of the mission.” “Thousands of parts had to be worked with precision to fully uncover this marvel of engineering. The team has made an audacious feat with the complexity of this deployment – ​​one of the boldest ventures yet for Webb ”

According to the agency, this is one of the most challenging spacecraft deployments by NASA to date.

The huge five-layer sunshield will protect Webb’s giant mirror and appliances from the sun’s heat. Both the mirror and the instruments must be kept at a very low minus 370 °F (negative 188 °C) in order to be able to see the universe as designed. Each of the five sheets is as thin as a human hair and is coated with reflective metal.

When Webb launched, the sunshield was folded to fit inside the Ariane 5 rocket that carried the telescope into space. The eight-day process of opening and tightening the security cover began on December 28. This involved unwinding the support structure for the shield over the course of several days before each layer was tensioned, or tightened.

The fifth layer of the sunshield was tightened and secured at 11:59 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Overall, the entire process, which was handled by teams on Earth, involved the correct, coordinated movement of hundreds of release mechanisms, hinges, deployment motors, pulleys and cables.

This $10 Billion Space Telescope Will Unravel the Secrets of the Universe

“The membrane tension phase of sunshield deployment is particularly challenging because of the complex interactions between structures, tension mechanisms, cables, and membranes,” James Cooper, NASA’s Webb sunshield manager based at Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. , “It was the hardest part to test on the ground, so it feels great to have everything so good today.”

Teams are working in 12 hour shifts to ensure everything runs smoothly with the deployment of the web.

With the sunshield successfully completed, Bill Ochs, Webb’s project manager, said the telescope has exceeded its capacity of 70% to 75% out of more than 300 single-point failures that could impede its ability to function.

This is what the Webb telescope's sunshield looks like once it is fully positioned.  The teams tested this difficult process on Earth a year before launch.

Jim Flynn, Sunshield Manager at Northrop, said, “This milestone represents the pioneering spirit of the thousands of engineers, scientists and technicians who have spent a significant portion of their careers developing, designing, manufacturing and testing the first such space technology.” Spent.” Grumman, NASA’s primary contractor for Webb, said in a statement.

The telescope has the ability to look back in time, using its infrared observations to reveal the invisible aspects and look deeper into the universe than ever before.

The Webb telescope will look at every stage of cosmic history, including the first flashes after the Big Bang that created our universe and the formation of the galaxies, stars and planets that fill it today. Its capabilities will enable the observatory to look inside exoplanets’ atmospheres and examine faint signals from the first galaxies that formed 13.5 billion years ago.

“This is the first time anyone has attempted to put such a large telescope into space,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “Webb requires not only careful assembly but careful deployment as well. The success of its most challenging deployment – Sunshield – is an incredible testament to the human ingenuity and engineering prowess that will enable Webb to meet its science goals.”

what comes next

Webb is expected to take about 29 days to reach its intended orbit, one million miles from Earth, with other important steps along the way — and that includes another big challenge this weekend: opening the telescope’s mirrors.

The mirror can span 21 feet and 4 inches (6.5 meters) — a colossal length that would allow the telescope to collect more light from objects when it’s in space. The more light the mirror can collect, the more detail the telescope can see.

It is the largest mirror ever built by NASA, but its size has created a unique problem. The glass was so big that it could not fit inside a rocket. Engineers designed the telescope as a series of moving parts that could fold origami-style and fit inside a 16-foot (5-meter) space for launch.

Ball Aerospace optical technician Scott Murray inspects the first gold primary mirror segment during assembly.
This is the next series of critical steps for Webb – ensuring that the mirror’s 18 hexagonal gold-coated segments open and lock together. All these phases are expected to be completed by the end of this week.

Finally, Webb will make another trajectory adjustment to insert himself into an orbit that reaches beyond the Moon.

While it rounds out 29 days, the telescope will undergo a period of commissioning in space that lasts about five-and-a-half months, which includes cooling, aligning and calibrating its instruments. All devices will go through a checkout process to see how they are working.

Webb will begin collecting the data and its first images later in 2022, and they are expected to be released in June or July, which will forever change the way we look at and understand the universe.


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