The Webb Space Telescope Completed the Most Complex and Risky Maneuver Ever in Space

After deploying the heat shield and secondary mirror, teams from NASA and Northrop Grumman successfully opened the primary and segmented mirror of the Webb telescope. Steps performed automatically and deemed to be high risk with hundreds of critical points of failure.

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After a perfect launch, and this is saying a lot, the commissioning of the James-Webb observatory began only a few hours after its separation with Ariane 6. This commissioning, which is obviously not the start of scientific operations, consists in gradually making the observatory operational with the deployment of all its equipment.

Crucial steps which condition the proper functioning of the James-Webb. They are carried out automatically and total several hundred critical points of failure likely to render the system inoperative. telescope at any time! Hence a certain stress among teams from NASA and Northrop Grumman, who made the satellite, because let’s not forget, unlike the telescope Hubble, no operation of maintenance cannot be carried out if a technical problem arises.

A complex maneuver

After successfully deploying the heat shield, then the mirror secondary, NASA announces in a press release that it has successfully unfolded the imposing segmented primary mirror 6.5 meters in diameter.

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This deployment maneuver is arguably the most complex and risky NASA ever carried out in space.

This deployment was a complex and risky task, arguably the most complex maneuver of its nature ever carried out by NASA. This maneuver did not just consist in having the two folded panels (which each support 3 of the 18 segments which form the primary mirror) on either side of the central part of the mirror open and position themselves against the central part. It was still necessary that the alignment of each of the segments be perfect, with respect to each other. As a reminder, the folding mirror was made necessary to bring the satellite into the Ariane 5 fairing.

There are still two weeks of travel to James-Webb before setting out orbit around Lagrange point number 2, some 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Before the first observations begin, there is still about five and a half months of setup. The next steps include aligning the telescope’s optics and calibrating its scientific instruments. The start of scientific operations is scheduled for six months after takeoff, in June 2022.

Operation successful: the Webb space telescope will be able to be protected from the Sun

Article fromEuropean Space Agency published the 05/01/2022

The James Webb Space Telescope team has fully deployed the spacecraft’s sunshade in space, a key step in their preparation for science operations. Next step: the secondary mirror.

The sun visor of the télescope spatial James Webb was successfully unfolded and stretched after an eight-day multi-stage operation. About the size of a tennis court and made of five layers, the sunshade is intended to protect the telescope from the light and some heat emitted by the Sun, the Earth and also the Moon. It must have been bent to fit the headdress of the launcher Ariane 5. Its deployment began on December 28, 2021, three days after launch.

“Unfolding Webb’s sun visor in space is an incredible and crucial step to the success of the mission, said Gregory L. Robinson, program director for Webb at NASA headquarters. Thousands of parts had to be worked with precision for this engineering marvel to unfold completely. The team accomplished a daring feat with the complexity of this deployment, making it one of the most daring endeavors for Webb ” he greeted.

The next steps

Unwinding and tensioning the sunshade involved 139 of Webb’s 178 trigger mechanisms, 70 hinge assemblies, 8 deployment motors, approximately 400 pulleys, and 90 individual cables totaling almost half a mile in length.

The team suspended deployment operations for a day so that they could work on optimizing the power systems and voltage motors and ensure that the JWST was in perfect condition before moving on to the crucial stage of tensioning the sunshade.

The largest and most complex space telescope ever to launch into space still has five and a half months of configuration before delivering its first images and starting scientific research. In the next few days, it is planned to unfold the tripod of the secondary mirror and then the wings of the primary mirror. The alignment of the optics, start-up and calibration of the instruments will follow.

The telescope’s revolutionary technology will explore every phase of cosmic history, from within very close to our Solar system until galaxies the most distant within theuniverse primitive. Webb will offer unexpected discoveries and help humanity understand the origins of the Universe and our place in it.

Three days after its launch, where is the James Webb Space Telescope?

Article by Nathalie Mayer published on December 28, 2021

Its launch had been repeatedly postponed. The operation finally went off without a hitch on Saturday, December 25, 2021. Today, a new crucial step awaits the James Webb space telescope: the deployment of its heat shield.

Three days after being launched from the Kourou base (Guyana), the télescope spatial James Webb (JWST) continues on its way towards its operational orbit L2, 1.5 million kilometers from our Earth. He deployed his solar panel and started to produceenergy. Then he carried out a first operation to correct his trajectory. He then took out the antenna that will allow him to transfer the observation data to Earth. Then underwent a second course correction operation. And a few hours ago he passed theorbit of the moon.

A new critical phase for the James Webb Space Telescope is due today. The beginning of the deployment of its heat shield. A kind of sun visor intended to protect it from the radiation emitted by our Star.

Protecting the James Webb Space Telescope from the Sun

The operation is crucial for astronomers. The objective of the James Webb Space Telescope is indeed to observe the Universe From under the sun. In the cold. At around -266 ° C. The temperature necessary for quality observations in theinfrared.

For now, the JWST’s heat shield is still folded up like an accordion. But the five layers of membranes that compose it will soon unfold. For a full deployment, it will still take several days. The shield measuring no less than the size of a tennis court. Only then – within a week – can the deployment of the telescope’s mirror begin.

Remember that the James Webb space telescope does not arrive safely for a month. And it will then be necessary to wait several more weeks before it is fully operational. For the first observations, see you next June.

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