The five parts of the James Webb Space Telescope’s solar shield are now unfolded and strained. This was one of the most difficult operations, as the solar shield is a crucial part of the telescope.
“Tightening the solar shield is very difficult because it requires complex interactions between the structure, the mechanisms used to tighten the solar shield, cables and membranes,” said James Cooper, senior manager of the James Webb solar shield. “This was the most difficult phase for us on Earth to experience, so it’s good that everything went so well today.”
On New Years Day, the Webb telescope was blown up his sun visor removed. This sun visor is a kind of umbrella that protects the telescope’s instruments and mirrors from the heat of the sun. This keeps infrared instruments very sensitive to cold and allows them to continue to function properly. The shield consists of five layers. By firmly pulling the shield, a space is created between the five layers and the shield works more efficiently. The animation below shows how it works.
“Onions have layers. Ogres have diapers. And our sun visor too!
– NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) January 3, 2022
Applause and happy faces: mission accomplished
The first three layers were tight yesterday. This operation lasted a little over 5.5 hours. Earlier this afternoon, scientists at NASA began to tighten the fourth and fifth layers. This could be followed live on YouTube. This work was completed at 5:59 p.m. Dutch time. In the video below, it’s around 2:24. Of course, there was applause to celebrate this moment.
344 crucial actions
But we are not there yet. In total, the James Webb Telescope is to perform 344 crucial operations in space. If something goes wrong, the mission may fail and we may never see any great footage. The good news is that 75% of the 344 crucial actions are now complete. So far, the James Webb Telescope is performing above expectations, so we can look forward to its latest operations with confidence.
The next task is to position the second mirror. It is the mirror that should reflect the light from the primary mirror to the instruments behind the primary mirror. Then the sides of the main mirror are unfolded. The sides each contain three of the eighteen mirror segments. Then these mirror segments must be positioned so that they function as a primary mirror. At the end of January, the telescope is installed at Lagrange point 2: the point from which it must unravel the secrets of the cosmos. After that, the telescope cools down for a few months. The first images are not expected until the summer. Exciting!
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