NASA engineers have initiated a critical phase in the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope. The engineers have started adding tension to their tennis court-sized sun protection. Stretching the first three layers of the five-layer sun visor was successful and the last two layers will be deployed today, January 4th, the space agency said. Successful use of all five layers is critical to keeping the $ 10 billion observatory (approximately Rs 74.525 billion) cool enough to do its job. Once fully stretched, the kite-shaped sun visor measures 47 feet in diameter and 70 feet long.
The first shift was fully pulled into its final configuration on Monday afternoon. It took engineers 74 minutes to deploy the second shift and 71 minutes to complete the third. The provision of the three shifts took a total of around five and a half hours. Since they are closest to the sun, these layers would mainly contribute to radiating heat. The preset schedule stipulates that the mission should be completed by Wednesday.
The sun visor is an important part of the James Webb telescope as it specializes in heat-sensitive infrared observations. When fully deployed, the sun visor protects the telescope from solar radiation. It keeps James Webb’s instruments cool at a temperature of at least -218 degrees Celsius.
James Cooper, NASA’s Webb Sun Protection Manager at Goddard Space Flight Center, said in an official blog post that the tensioning phase of the sun visor is challenging because of the complex interactions between several components, including cables and membranes. “This was the hardest part to test in the field, so it feels great that everything is going so well today. The Northrop and NASA teams are doing a great job and we look forward to stretching the remaining shifts. “
The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on December 25, 2021 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. The observatory is expected to take a month to be fully set up nearly 1.6 million kilometers from Earth and to take over the observation of the universe from the Hubble Space Telescope.