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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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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