One of the James Webb Space Telescope Most of the steps for spreading nail biting safely are in books.
The $10 billion observatory launched its massive sunscreen on Friday (December 31), carefully revealing the five-layer structure by deploying two successive booms.
“Shine like a diamond. Through the successful deployment of the right-hand sunshine, or ‘arm,’ Webb’s visor has now taken on its diamond shape in space,” mission team members Via Webb’s Twitter account Friday night.
Shine bright like a diamond 💎 With the successful deployment of the middle right sun shield or ‘arm’, Webb’s visor has now taken on its diamond shape in space. Next up: Tighten the five layers of the sun! https://t.co/6G2caS1djY #UnfoldTheUniverse pic.twitter.com/q0iuHdnKlNJanuary 1, 2022
Sunscreen is one of Webb’s most important and complex features It was launched on December 25th To search for faint heat signals from the early universe. Detecting such signals would require Webb to keep his devices and optics extremely cold, and sunscreen would help him do so by reflecting and radiating solar energy away.
The shiny silver shield measures 69.5 feet long and 46.5 feet wide (21.2 x 14.2 meters) when fully deployed—too large to fit inside the protective payload hull of any currently operating missile. So it is designed to be launched in a very compact configuration and then Unfolds as soon as Webb reaches space.
This deployment is a complex, multi-step process with many different potential points of failure that can drown out the entire job.
“Webb’s sunvisor assembly includes 140 release mechanisms, approximately 70 hinges assemblies, eight sawing motors, bearings, springs, gears, approximately 400 pulleys and 90 cables totaling 1,312 feet [400 m]Webb spacecraft systems engineer Crystal Buga, who works for Northrop Grumman, the mission’s prime contractor, said at Video about Webb deployments published by NASA in October.
Sunshield’s deployment began on Tuesday (December 28) when Webb lowered the two platforms holding the five-tier structure. Additional steps followed over the next few days. On Thursday (December 30) for example observatory chest cover that protected the sun’s shield during its time on Earth and its launch into space.
This cover complicated Friday’s activities a bit: Webb’s team delayed publishing the boom by a few hours to make sure the cover was fully folded as planned and as needed.
“The switches that should have indicated that the rolled-up cap did not turn on when it was supposed to,” said Patrick Lynch, deputy chief of the communications office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Wrote in a blog post on Friday.
“But secondary and tertiary sources have provided confirmation of that,” Lynch added. “Temperature data appears to show that the visor cap is unwrapped to block sunlight from the sensor, and the gyroscope sensors indicate movement consistent with the sun visor cap release devices being activated.”
Webb’s team members started publishing the (left) port mid-boom at 1:30 PM EDT (1830 GMT) on Friday, Lynch wrote, and the activity ended at 4:49 PM EDT (2149 GMT) . The right-boom mid-extension began at 6:31 p.m. EDT (2331 GMT) and took place around 10:13 p.m. EDT (0313 GMT on Jan. 1), Lynch wrote in Another blog post.
Opening the sun visors is a huge milestone, so members of Web’s team will likely breathe big sighs of relief after Friday’s success. But the sunscreen’s work isn’t over yet; Kapton’s five thin layers still have to be brought to the appropriate tension level, which is what the mission team aims to do over the weekend.
After this is done, the focus will switch to the diffusing of the secondary Webb mirror and the primary Webb mirror which is 21.3 feet (6.5 m) wide. These tasks are expected to be completed by January 7 at the earliest, but deployment schedules are flexible, so don’t be shocked (or worried) if that goal isn’t met.
Locking the mirrors into place will end Webb’s complicated main publishing phase. The next major milestone to follow will be the engine burn, scheduled for 29 days after launch, which will bring Webb into orbit around its final destination: SunEarth Lagrange Point 2 (L2), a gravitationally stable spot 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) from our planet.
Webb’s team members will still have a lot of work to do after the observatory reaches L2. They will have to precisely align 18 parts of Webb’s primary mirror so that the pieces work together as a single light-gathering surface, for example, and check and calibrate the telescope’s four science instruments.
Regular science operations are expected to begin six months after launch, in the summer of 2022. For at least five years after that, Webb will study some of the first stars and galaxies in the universe, looking for interesting compounds in nearby atmospheres outer planets and make a variety of other potentially transformative cosmological observations.
Mike Wall is the author of “AbroadBook (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed. Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed or on Facebook social networking site.