NASA’s web sunshield successfully exposed in the final tests and stress


To help ensure success, technicians carefully inspect the sunshield of the James Webb Space Telescope before deployment testing begins, while it is taking place, and perform a complete post-test analysis to ensure that the observatory Is working as planned. Credit: Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn

Tall in the shape of a tennis court, the five-layer sunshield of NASA’s fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope successfully completed a final series of large-scale deployments and stressful tests. This milestone puts the observatory closer to launching in 2021.

“This is one of the Web’s greatest achievements in 2020,” said Alfonso Stewart, Web deployment system lead for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We were able to synchronize precise motions in a very slow and controlled fashion and maintain its critical kite-like shape, indicating that it is ready to perform these actions in space.”

The sunshield protects the telescope and reflects light and background heat into space from the Sun, Earth and the Moon. To complete groundbreaking science in infrared light, the observatory must be kept cool, which is invisible to the human eye and is felt as heat.

In the shadow of the sunshield, the web’s innovative technologies and sensitive infrared sensors will allow scientists to observe distant galaxies and study many other intriguing objects in the universe.

Maintaining the shape of the sunshield involves a delicate, complex process.

“Congratulations to the entire team. Due to the Web’s large size and stringent performance requirements, deployment is incredibly complex. In addition to the required technical expertise, this set of tests requires detailed planning, determination, patience, and open communication. Is. The team learned. It’s all amazing. It’s amazing to think that the next time Webb’s sunshield is deployed, it will be thousands of miles away, hurting through space, “James Cooper, of Webb in Goddard The sunshield manager said.

Webb’s Sunshield’s Captain Polymer-coated membranes were fully deployed and strained at Redondo Beach Northrop Grumman, California in December. Northrop Grumman designed the sunshield of the observatory for NASA.

During the test, engineers sent a number of commands to the spacecraft hardware, which activated 139 actuators, eight motors and thousands of other components to bring and diffuse five membranes of sunlight to their final stem shape. A challenging part of the test is to reveal sunshields in the Earth’s gravitational atmosphere, which, unlike the unfiltered material in space without the effect of gravity, causes friction.

For launch the sunshield will be twisted around the two sides of the observatory and placed in the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, provided by the European Space Agency.

In this test, two palette structures that hold the sunshield upright, then two massive “arms” (known as mid-boom assemblies) are gently telescoped outward, folded into the folds. Very slowly choreographed dance resembling synchronized movements. Once the arms were locked in their horizontal position, the Sunshi’s membranes were successfully tense, starting from the bottom layer, separating each into a fully positioned shape.

The large sunshield has divided the observatory into a warm, sun-facing side (about 185 ° F) and a cold-space-facing side (minus 388 ° F) that includes optics and scientific equipment. The sunshield will protect the observatory’s optics and sensors, so they stay at extremely cold temperatures to conduct science.

“This is a sign of the milestone that the web is well on its way to being ready for launch. Our engineers and technicians achieved incredible test progress this month, completing these milestones for launch next year for the project.” Significantly reduced risk, ”said Bill Ouch, project manager for the web at Goddard. “The team is now preparing for a final post-environment deployment test at the observatory over the next few months before shipping to the launch site next summer.”

Webb has passed other rigorous deployment tests during its development that have successfully exposed and resolved technical issues with spacecraft. These tests validate that once in the classroom, the observatory and its many redundant systems will perform flawed tasks.


Sunshield layers are fully integrated on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope


Provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Quotes: NASA’s Web Sunshield successfully revealed in final tests (2020, December 18) and re-launched on December 20, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-12-nasa-webb-sunshield-successfully-unfolds.html Received.

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