A first breakthrough for the largest space telescope ever built: On its journey to its final position, it fully extended sun protection—one of the mission’s most difficult procedures.
The James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched over Christmas, has fully unraveled its massive sun shield in a crucial and complex phase. “All five layers of the sun shield are fully spread,” said one NASAA worker at a control center in the US city of Baltimore cheered on her colleagues on Tuesday. Shield deployment began Monday.
The sun shield, shaped like a sail and a tennis court, protects the telescope and its sensitive instruments from heat and light. Its thin hairline is made of captan, a material known for its resistance to heat and cold.
NASA engineers breathed a sigh of relief
Because the telescope was too large for the Ariane 5 rocket, it had to be folded before launch. Exposure in space was a complex and risky process that caused great concern to those in charge of NASA. “When asked what keeps me awake at night, it’s the deployment of a sun shield,” project manager Bill Ochs said before the operation.
The Ariane 5 rocket brought the successor to the legendary Hubble Telescope into space from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Christmas Day. The James Webb Telescope is to trace the early days of the universe 13 billion years ago and thus a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers hope to draw the first conclusions about the formation of stars and galaxies.
The telescope, named after a former director of the US space agency, was jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency. She and the Canadian space agency CSA. O also Max Planck Institute For astronomy, the University of Cologne and several German companies participated.
The project, which began in 1989, was originally scheduled to go into operation in the early 2000s. However, new problems delayed the project for years, and the cost tripled to nearly ten billion dollars (8.8 billion euros). The start had to be postponed several times.
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