Thousands of parts must function properly, in sequence, to unfold NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to its final configuration, all the while flying to a destination nearly 1 million miles away.
Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn
Over the next two weeks, NASA will provide broadcast coverage, a media briefing and other updates on key milestones in the implementation of the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful space science telescope.
Broadcasts of milestone events will be broadcast live on NASA TV, the NASA app and the agency’s website.
Webb, an international partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and Canadian Space Agency, launched on December 25 from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The observatory had been folded, origami-style, to fit into an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket for launch. Webb is now in the complex and intricate process of unfolding in space as it travels nearly 1 million miles to its destination, the second Lagrange point or L2.
Web implementation sequence is a human-driven process that gives the team the flexibility to pause, evaluate data, and adjust as needed. The timing and order of all milestones may therefore change. NASA will host live broadcast coverage to mark the following milestones, with specific times and dates updated as they approach:
- Sun Shield Tension: The full rollout of the Sun Shield, the most challenging element for Webb, will mark a critical milestone for the mission. This step is scheduled to end about eight days after launch, no earlier than Sunday, January 2nd.
- Secondary mirror support rollout: The support structure that holds the secondary mirror in position to focus light collected by the primary mirror is set for release about 10 days after launch, no earlier than Tuesday, January 4th.
- Web implementations completed: With the unfolding of the second of Web’s primary mirror wings, the Webb team will have completed all observatory installations. This is scheduled to take place about 13 days after launch, no earlier than Friday, January 7th.
NASA provides regular updates on the Web Telescope Blog. The public can also follow Web’s implementations online via a Where’s the Web? interactive tracker and a Deployments Explorer.
NASA press release
NASA will hold a media briefing as soon as possible after the completion of the live broadcast coverage of Webbs’ final implementations. The agency will determine the timing of this briefing as the final implementation approaches and stream the event live on its website.
NASA’s media accreditation policy for virtual activities is available online.
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