Launched at Christmas, the James Webb Space Telescope has fully unfolded its giant solar shield at a critical and critical juncture. “All five layers of solar armor are fully extended,” a NASA employee at a control center in the U.S. city of Baltimore said Tuesday, while his colleagues exploded and cheered. Work to fit the shield began on Monday.
The sunscreen, which is shaped like a sail and the size of a tennis court, protects the telescope and its sensitive equipment from heat and light. Its hair-thin membrane was made by Captain known to resist heat and cold.
The telescope was too large for the Ariane 5 rocket so it had to be folded down before launch. Emergence in space is a complex and dangerous process that has caused great concern to NASA officials. “If you ask me what makes me sleep at night, it’s the deployment of the sunscreen,” project manager Bill Oaks said before work.
The Ariane 5 rocket, the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope, was launched into space on Christmas Day from a space station in Guerrero, French Guiana. The James Webb Telescope explores the early days of the universe 13 billion years ago, thus only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers first hope to draw conclusions about the formation of stars and galaxies.
Named after the former director of the American Space Research Organization, the telescope was jointly developed by NASA, the European space agency ESA and the Canadian space agency CSA. The Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and the University of Cologne also participated. The Viennese space company RUAG worked on one of the three main instruments of the space telescope. Two highly accurate algorithms were provided for “super eye” called “NIRSpec” (near the infrared spectrum). It can capture up to 100 celestial bodies, such as stars or stars, at once. The instrument weighs about 200 kilograms and operates in space at a temperature of minus 238 degrees Celsius. The Viennese company provided a filter wheel and “eye” devices that enable precise mounting and rotation of a grid wheel.
At the end of the Earth telescope, red-white-red technology was also in use: the device for rotating and tilting the space laboratory came from RUAG space. The company also provided thermal insulation for the telescope’s large communication antenna.
The space telescope project was launched in 1989 and was originally scheduled to be operational in the early 2000s. However, new problems delayed the project for several years, and costs almost tripled to almost ten billion dollars (8.8 billion euros). The start was also postponed several times.
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