(ORDO NEWS) — One of the most crucial stages of the entire James Webb Space Telescope mission is over.
The US $ 10 billion space observatory successfully unveiled its giant solar screen last Friday, December 31st, for which two masts were first sequentially deployed with a screen stretched between them.
“It sparkles like a diamond! After successfully deploying our right mast to tension the solar shield, the space observatory now looks like a diamond in space! ” – Tweeted by members of the mission’s scientific team on Friday evening.
The sunscreen is one of the most important and complex structural elements of the Webb, which was launched into space on December 25 on a mission to search for faint heat signals from the early universe.
Detecting such signals requires Webb’s scientific instruments and optics to be at extremely low temperatures, and the sunscreen helps maintain those temperatures by reflecting and re-radiating the sun’s rays.
This sparkling silver screen is 21.2 meters long and 14.2 meters wide when fully deployed.
Deploying the sunscreen is a critical part of the mission, so after Friday’s success, the Webb team breathed a sigh of relief. But the work on unrolling the screen has not yet been fully completed – its five thin Kapton (Kapton is a kind of polyimide film) must be stretched to the specified tension values. The project team plans to tackle these works this coming weekend.
With the completion of this portion of the work, the focus will shift to deploying the Webb’s secondary mirror and its 6.5-meter primary mirror. These activities must be completed no earlier than January 7th, with possible additional delays.
After adjusting the position of the main mirror segments, the laborious stage of deploying the space telescope will be completed. The next important stage of the mission will be to turn on the engine, which is planned to be done in 29 days from the date of launch.
As a result of this activation, Webb will enter orbit around the final destination of its journey – the second Lagrange point (L2) of the Earth-Sun system, a gravitationally stable point located at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from our planet.
The first regular scientific operations of the telescope are expected in 6 months from the date of launch, in the summer of 2022.
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