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James Webb Telescope: First Milestone Achieved – Sunscreen Expansion Worked, Now Five Protective Layers Tense

Sigh of relief at NASA: One of the most subtle stages in the launch of the new James Web Space Telescope – the expansion of the solar system. 107 Retaining Bolts The size of the tennis court should loosen the protective shield evenly and evenly. NASA announced that the operation was successfully completed in the New Year. Now the five scaly-thin membranes of the sun protection are gently stretched and stretched.

The James Web Web Telescope It is the largest, most complex, and most expensive instrument that mankind has ever sent into space. On December 25, 2021, the Ariane 5 rocket brought the valuable telescope to the Lagrangean Point L2. But before the high-definition infrared telescope can begin its work, it must be a complex one. The process of expansion Go on, this is 29 days of concern for NASA officials.

It takes 29 days to complete all the steps in the complex development process. © NASA

107 retaining bolts and two telescopic struts

The James Webb Telescope has now successfully completed the first and most important part of this development: after igniting the surveillance engines and setting the path to its target, the five-layer solar shield and its retaining struts were then folded and extended. To do this, the group’s tarpaulin was first rolled, and then on New Year’s Eve the NASA deployment began to extend the two central struts of the board shield.

“These core struts do the core work and pull the membranes into their iconic diamond shape,” explains NASA’s Keith Parish. However, for this to happen, the 107 retaining bolts must be loosened completely and in the correct order – if only one bolt is stuck, there is a risk that the expansion will fail.

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But all went well: all 107 bolts and actuators worked as planned and were extended to the sunshade side with the help of two motors. On New Year’s Day, the shield reached its full width of 14 meters.

Pause for measurements

“So far, the major development steps we have taken have gone as smoothly as you would like,” said Mike Menzel, chief engineer of the deployment team. The chances are good that the James Webb Telescope will get the cooling shade it needs for its sensitive equipment. This is because the glasses can also be folded only when the solar shield is fully functional and the optical side of the telescope is protected from the heat radiation of the sun and the earth.

“But before we go any further, let’s take the time to learn all about how telescopes work under space conditions,” Menzel explains. This is because all the steps of the complex process and each component were tested in cold rooms and vacuum conditions before the start. “We only had a week to figure out how the telescope works in space,” says the NASA engineer.

Solar shield
The five reflective membranes and the gaps between them protect the optical instrument from the heat of the sun. © NASA

Next step: Tension the sunshade

The next stage is another subtle phase: the tension in the five layers of the solar plexus. The 0.025 to 0.05 mm thin membranes are gently tightened one after the other using a system of 90 pulling ropes. The resulting gaps are important so that heat can escape. The tensioning process begins with the outer and largest membrane of the sunscreen and then continues to the other layers.

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In this process, it is important that the motors work in conjunction with millimeter accuracy. The deployment team must therefore ensure that the engines are at the optimum working temperature – not an easy task under space conditions. It takes at least two days for the membranes to fully open, and longer – depending on how often the NASA team interrupts this process.

At the interactive stage, you can see what stage the James Web Telescope is at and which steps have already been completed. Deployment Explorer Follow NASA.

What: NASA