James Webb Space Telescope LIVE: A Milestone! Sunshield Successfully Deploys

NASA James Webb Space Telescope

 

The James Webb Space Telescope team has fully deployed the spacecraft’s tennis-court-sized 70-foot sunshield, a key milestone in preparing it for science operations. On its month-long voyage to LaGrange Point 2, the Webb team began remotely deploying the sunshield Dec. 28, 2021, three days after launch.

“Keep in mind that while the launch was successful, JWST is still on its long way to its final destination at the 2nd Lagrange point,” observes Avi Shporer, dailygalaxy.com editor and astrophysicist at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, formerly a NASA Sagan Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Moreover,’ he notes, “the telescope was tightly folded and packed inside the launch vehicle, and during the next few weeks it will have many unfolding steps, each of which is a single point of failure.”

NASA held a media teleconference at 12:45 p.m. EST Tuesday, Jan. 4, to discuss the completion of this critical step. Audio of the teleconference will also stream on the agency’s website.

“This is the first time anyone has ever attempted to put a telescope this large into space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Webb required not only careful assembly but also careful deployments. 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 goals.”

“The five-layered sunshield will protect the telescope from the light and heat of the Sun, Earth, and Moon.” reports NASA. “Each plastic sheet is about as thin as a human hair and coated with reflective metal, providing protection on the order of more than SPF 1 million. Together, the five layers reduce exposure from the Sun from over 200 kilowatts of solar energy to a fraction of a watt.”

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