NASA’s James Web Space Telescope fully deploys its huge 70-foot sunshield as it rockets through space towards what is called the Earth Sun Lagrange Point 2 or L2. L2 is almost a million kilometers from Earth.
At 11:59 ET, an announcement was made at Baltimore’s observatorium’s control centre. Here, team members cheered.
The motor-driven cables took only one-and-a-half days to pull the layers of ultra-thinness together. This was half the time expected.
The sunshield – about the size of a tennis court at full size – was folded to fit inside the payload area of an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket’s nose cone prior to launch, which took place on Christmas Day.
This shield features small, transparent plastic sheets that are as thin as human hairs and coated with reflective metallic. It provides protection of up to SPF1 million.
Five layers of sunshield protect the telescope against the heat and light from Earth, Sun, and Moon, while keeping scientific instruments below -380° Fahrenheit.
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NASA’s James Web Space Telescope is now fully operational with its 70-foot solar shield as it travels through space to the Earth-sun Lagrange Point 2(L2), which lies nearly one million miles away from Earth.
Thomas Zurbuchen is an associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, based at NASA headquarters in Washington. He stated in a statement that this was the first attempt to launch a large telescope into space.
Webb needed to be assembled carefully and deployed correctly. The success of its most challenging deployment – the sunshield – is an incredible testament to the human ingenuity and engineering skill that will enable Webb to accomplish its science goal.’
NASA delayed the tightening process of sunshield to January 2 in order for it to be in “prime condition” before tightening it.
Webb went into orbit on Christmas Day. This was after several days of work that some thought would make it impossible to leave Earth.
Each shield is made with small, transparent plastic sheets that are as thin as human hairs and coated with reflective metallic. It provides protection of up to SPF 1,000,000
It is hoped that the observatory, a replacement for the 30-year-old Hubble telescope, will by travelling so far out be able to peer back in time 13.5 billion years – to a point within a mere 100 million years of the Big Bang
It is hoped that the observatory, a replacement for the 30-year-old Hubble telescope, will by travelling so far out be able to peer back in time 13.5 billion years – to a point within a mere 100 million years of the Big Bang.
The world’s largest space telescope took flight at 7:20 AM ET, wearing an Ariane 5 rocket. It then flew over the Atlantic Ocean from French Guiana’s European Spaceport.
The rocket was launching its boosters. It soared up to 870 miles, before finally disconnecting the telescope.
The sunshield – about the size of a tennis court at full size – was folded to fit inside the payload area of an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket’s (pictured) nose cone prior to launch, which took place on Christmas Day
The milestone achieved Tuesday was not an easy feat. It involved Webb’s 139 release mechanisms, 70 hinge assembly, 8 deployment motors and approximately 90 pulleys. To complete the dismantling of the shield, the individual cables were roughly one-quarter of a mile long.
NASA spokesperson said that Webb would usher in an era of new astronomy with its launch.
Webb then began to unfold the massive sunshield four days later.
It is now about half way to L2, the area of balance gravity between Earth and sun, where it will spend over a decade studying the universe in the infrared.
This milestone took Webb, 139 of his 178 release mechanism, seven hinge assemblies, eight deployment engines, 90 cables and roughly one quarter mile to complete.
Hillary Stock was Northrop Grumman’s sunshield deployment specialist. She told journalists on a conference call that it was an unforgettable moment. It was full of joy and relief.
Jim Flynn is the sunshield manager for Northrop Grumman. He was NASA’s primary contractor on Webb.
“This historic milestone is the result of the pioneering spirit that thousands of engineers, scientists and technicians spent their entire careers creating, designing, manufacturing and testing this revolutionary space technology.
Webb needs to be set up for five more months before it’s ready to explore all of the universe.
This includes deployment of the secondary mirror and primary mirror wings, alignment of the telescope optics, and calibration of the science instruments.