WASHINGTON – NASA is taking a day off deploying the James Webb Space Telescope after successfully extending the spacecraft’s sunshade arms.
NASA said Jan. 1 that it would wait a day before beginning the process of tightening the five-layer sun visor, finalizing it and making sure the layers are separated. This effort, now scheduled to begin on January 2, will take at least two days to complete.
Spacecraft managers added a pause in sunvisor deployment after work late into the night of December 31 to expand two “medium-boom” structures on either side of the spacecraft. Those mutations expanded the sunblock to its full size. This process started late when sensors indicated that the sun visor had not been completely wrapped. The controllers decided to go ahead with the deployment of the booms because other data, including from temperature sensors and gyroscopes, was consistent with the cover removal.
“The team did what we’ve been training for in this type of situation: pause, evaluate and proceed systematically with a plan,” Keith Parrish, director of the JWST Observatory at Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a December 31 statement. “We still have a long way to go in the entire deployment process.”
This sensor malfunction has been the only problem in the spacecraft’s series of deployments since its December 25 launch. NASA noted in a statement that the deployment of the sun shield relied on 107 membrane release devices, each of which had to work with the sunscreen in order to stretch properly. The agency stated that the 107 were successfully released.
And NASA said the one-day break in completing a visor lift will likely push other activities back. Screwing is the final step in completing the deployment of the sun visor, after which the controllers will direct their attention to the installation of the telescope’s mirrors. However, a day’s slip will have little long-term impact on the mission, which will spend six months completing the telescope and its instruments.
“Today is an example of why we keep saying we don’t believe our deployment schedule may change, but we expect it to,” Parrish said in a December 31 statement on the boom spread.