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The James Webb Space Telescope begins critical deployment of the solar shield

The James Webb Space Telescope begins critical deployment of the solar shield

Animation to spread sunscreen Webb. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Imaging Laboratory

Earlier this afternoon, the Webb mission operations team finished publishing the first of two structures that contain Webb’s most complex and unpredictable ingredient: sunscreen.

The frames—called standard front and rear panel frames—contain the five carefully folded sun visors, as well as the cables, pulleys and release mechanisms that make up the Webb’s sunshade. The team completed the live pallet execution around 1:21 p.m. EDT, after starting the entire operation about four hours earlier. The team will now move to a back pallet deployment.

J-Publishing Boom and Sunshield. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Imaging Laboratory

The advanced pallet deployment required several hours for the mission operations team to carefully follow dozens of steps – only one of which was the actual motorized deployment to move the pallet from storage location to deployment state. Lowering the front pallet also marks the first time this structure has made such a move since it underwent final detection and deployment tests in December 2020 at Northrop Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach, California.

Final Mesh Mirror Folding Test

Engineers at Northrop Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach, California, are overseeing the final bend test of the Webb mirror in April 2021. The front-loading platform chassis is shown here in the foreground, in its unfolded state. Credit: Northrop Grumman

Deployment of the platform frameworks begins in what will be at least five more days of steps required for advisor deployment – a process that will ultimately determine the mission’s ability to succeed. If there was no solar shield to keep Webb’s telescope and instruments so cool, Webb wouldn’t be able to observe the universe the way it was designed.

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instructions – Appears here – It will continue beyond today by expanding the foldable tower assembly, then releasing the sun visors caps, extending the bulkheads, and finally tightening the five Kapton layers of the sun visor itself.

How deploying the solar shield will be one of the most challenging spacecraft deployments NASA Since then, the mission’s operations team has included flexibility in the planned schedule so that the schedule and even the sequence of next steps can be changed over the next few days.