January 20, 2022

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Webb Space Telescope opens a tennis court-sized sun shield

Webb Space Telescope opens a tennis court-sized sun shield

James Webb Space Telescope, what it was Released on Christmas Day, successfully deployed the 21-meter solar shield last Tuesday.

This important milestone is just one of many things that should happen to the observatory NASA function properly in space. Achieving this step was a huge relief to the Webb Telescope team.

“The deployment of Webb’s solar shield into space is an incredible milestone, and critical to mission success,” Gregory L. Robinson, program manager for the Webb Telescope at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement.

“Thousands of parts had to be run at minute levels for this marvel of engineering to fully unlock. The team has made a bold feat with the complexity of this deployment – ​​one of Webb’s boldest endeavors.”

It’s one of the most challenging space deployments that NASA has attempted, according to the agency.

Opening a tennis court in space

A massive five-layer sun shield will protect your giant Web mirror and tools from the sun’s heat. Both the mirror and the instruments must be kept at a very low temperature, below 370 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 188 degrees Celsius) to be able to observe the universe as planned. The five layers are as thin as a human hair and coated with reflective metal to each one.

When Webb was launched, the shield was bent to fit the Ariane 5 rocket that carried the telescope into space. The deployment and installation of the solar shield took eight days and began on December 28. The process involved opening the shield support structure for several days before starting to tighten or secure each layer.

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The fifth layer of sun visors was installed in place last Tuesday at 11:59 AM EST or 1:59 PM EST.

Overall, the entire process, which was controlled by teams on the ground, involved perfect and coordinated handling of hundreds of release mechanisms, hinges, sawing actuators, pulleys and cables.

“The membrane stabilization phase of sunshield deployment is particularly challenging because there are complex interactions between the structures, grip mechanisms, cables and membranes,” James Cooper, director of NASA’s Solar Shield at Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. “This was the hardest part of the test on Earth, so it’s great to see that everything is going well today.”

Teams work in 12-hour shifts to ensure everything runs smoothly with Webb deployments.

With the solar shield installed successfully, project manager Bill Ochs said the telescope has overcome a 70 to 75 percent chance of failure of more than 300 single points that could hinder its ability to operate.

This is what the Webb Telescope’s solar shield looks like when fully deployed. The teams tested this challenging process on the ground a year before launch. / NASA

Jim Flynn, Northrop Grumman’s Solar Shield Director, Principal Partner, said in a statement from NASA’s Webb Telescope project.

The telescope has the ability to look back in time using infrared observations to reveal aspects that might otherwise be invisible, as well as to look deeper into space than ever before.

The Webb telescope will analyze all phases of cosmic history, including the first rays after the Big Bang that created our universe and the formation of the galaxies, stars and planets that fill space today. Its resources will allow the observatory to penetrate the atmospheres of exoplanets and investigate weak evidence of the first galaxies that formed 13.5 billion years ago.

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“This is the first time anyone has attempted to put a telescope of this size into space,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “Webb requires not only careful assembly, but also careful deployments. The success of her most challenging deployment – the Sun Shield – is an incredible testament to the human talent and engineering ingenuity that will enable Webb to achieve her scientific goals.”

What will come next

The Webb telescope is expected to take about 29 days to reach its intended orbit millions of miles from Earth with other important steps along the way – which includes another big challenge next week: opening the telescope’s mirror.

The mirror can extend up to 6.5 metres, a huge length that allows it to collect more light from objects once the telescope is in space. The more light the telescope captures, the more detail the telescope can detect.

It’s the largest mirror NASA has ever made, but its size has caused an unprecedented problem. The mirror was too large to fit inside the rocket. The engineers planned the telescope as a series of moving parts that could be bent in an origami fashion, fitting a 5-meter space to enable launch.

Scott Murray, Ball Aerospace’s optical technician, examines the first gold mirror clips during assembly. / Disclosure / David Higginbotham / NASA

This is Webb’s next series of crucial steps, making sure the 18 gold-plated mirror pieces are unloaded and secured together. hope All these steps Completed by the end of this week.

Finally, Webb will further adjust the trajectory to fit the orbit beyond the Moon.

While this occurs over the course of 29 days, the telescope will go through an operating period in space lasting about five and a half months, which includes cooling, alignment and calibration of its instruments. All tools will also go through a verification process to see how they work.

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The Webb Telescope will begin collecting data and its first images as early as 2022 and is scheduled to launch in June or July, forever changing the way we see and understand the universe.