Creating Space for the huge Sunshield
The huge sunshield for the James Webb Space Telescope is one step closer to being completed.
The massive new space observatory’s deployable tower assembly (DTA), a 48-inch-long (1.2-meter) shaft, was successfully extended on Wednesday (Dec. 29). According to NASA authorities, this shaft joins the telescope’s two sections.
The DTA on the James Webb Space Telescope provides the required space between the telescope’s massive mirror and scientific instruments and the spacecraft bus. It’s where the ship’s electronics and propulsion systems are kept.
“This provides sufficient separation to allow the sensitive mirrors and equipment to cool to the temperatures required to detect infrared light,” NASA stated in a statement. “The sunshield membranes will be able to fully unfold in this gap.”
At 9:45 a.m. EST (1445 GMT) on Wednesday, NASA engineers began sending commands to the Webb telescope to start extending the DTA. NASA said in a statement that the entire operation took six hours and 39 minutes, ending at 4:24 p.m. EST (2124 GMT).
The current positioning of JWST
The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on December 25 and is currently traveling to its destination after a 29-day voyage. Lagrange Position 2, or L2, is a gravitationally stable point 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) distant from Earth. It started erecting its massive sunshield on Tuesday (Dec. 28), a procedure that will take around five days.
The five-layer sunshield will keep Webb’s sensors and optics cold, which is essential for the observatory’s infrared-optimized vision of the cosmos.
Webb’s next steps will be to release the sunshield cover and the aft momentum flap now that the DTA is fully extended. In a description of the deployment process, NASA stated that it will “help counteract some of the solar pressure that impinges on the enormous sunshield.” Webb is slated to finish both of these phases on Thursday (Dec. 30), allowing it to start unfolding its sunshield on Dec. 31, Friday.