Webb Telescope Spends “29 Days on the Edge” as it comes to life in space
In order to accomplish all of these things, NASA has built its most complex telescope to date – and everything has to work flawlessly before it can begin.
During the 29 days, Webb will settle in, unfurling his giant golden mirror and protective tennis court-sized sun visor. This process involves thousands of parts that must work harmoniously, in the correct order. Fortunately, every step can be controlled from the ground if something goes wrong.
So far, Webb is already off to a good start. The spacecraft has already made two of the three critical course corrections to ensure it is on the correct course.
On December 26, Webb released its array of antennas, including a high-data rate satellite dish, which will be used by the telescope to send back 28.6 gigabytes of scientific data twice a day.
Now Webb is starting to take on a familiar form – what he will be after everything is fully deployed. The spacecraft has unfolded and locked pallet structures that will ultimately lead to the deployment of the sunshade, a process expected to continue through Sunday. The team also extended the assembly of the deployable tower, which creates a distance between two halves of the spacecraft.
The observatory is made up of three main elements.
One is the Integrated Science Instrument Module, which contains Webb’s suite of four instruments. These instruments will be used primarily for image capture or spectroscopy – breaking down light into different wavelengths to determine the physical and chemical components.
The element of the optical telescope, the main eye of the observatory, includes the mirrors and the backplane, or spine, which supports the mirrors.
Then there is the element of the spaceship, which includes the spaceship bus and the sun visor. The bus consists of the six main subsystems necessary for the operation of the spacecraft, including propulsion, power supply, communication, data and thermal controls.
The massive five-layer sunshade will protect Webb’s giant mirror and instruments from the heat of the sun, as they must be kept at a very cold temperature of 370 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 188 degrees Celsius) to be able to observe the universe as that it is designed.
Successful installation of the sunshade is critical to Webb’s ability to function – and it’s also one of the most difficult spacecraft deployments NASA has ever attempted, according to the agency.
“While these steps have been field tested and operationally repeated in the mission operations center, these essential activities must be performed for a successful mission. Best wishes to our team and keep calm, Webb! “
The next steps
Webb will then take out his sunshade covers, extend the handrails, and stretch the five layers of the sunshade in place, if all goes as planned.
Then there’s the mirror – considered Webb’s hallmark.
The telescope is equipped with a mirror that can extend 21 feet, 4 inches (6.5 meters) – a massive length that will allow the mirror to collect more light from the objects it observes once the telescope is up. in the space. The mirror consists of 18 gold-coated hexagonal segments, each 4.3 feet (1.32 meters) in diameter.
It’s the largest mirror NASA has ever built, but its size has created a unique problem. The mirror was so big it couldn’t fit into a rocket. So engineers designed the telescope as a series of moving parts that can bend origami-style and fit into a 5-meter (16-foot) space for launch.
This is the next set of crucial steps for Webb – making sure all of those mirrors unfold and lock together to create a giant mirror.
Finally, Webb will perform an additional trajectory adjustment to fit into an orbit that extends beyond the moon.
As this completes the 29 days, the telescope will go through a six-month space commissioning period, which involves instrument cooling, alignment and calibration. All instruments will go through a verification process to see how they perform.
Webb will start collecting data and his first images later in 2022, and those are expected to be released in June or July, forever changing the way we view and understand the universe.