In order for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to function properly and not be exposed to the aggressive heat from the sun, the space instrument was equipped with layers of kite-shaped sunshields that need to be deployed while in space.
While the space telescope needs to settle well before commencing its duty in deep space, it needs to deploy a number of important parts.
NASA has reported that the JWST has completed tensioning for the first three layers of its sunshield which is 47 feet across and 70 feet long.
The first layer – pulled fully taut into its final configuration – was completed mid-afternoon.
The second layer was opened by the team at NASA at about 4:09 PM EST yesterday and the entire process took about 74 minutes.
The third layer began at 5:48 pm EST, and the process took 71 minutes. In all, the tensioning process from the first steps this morning until the third layer achieved tension took just over five and a half hours.
These three layers are the ones closest to the Sun. Tensioning of the final two layers is planned for tomorrow.
“The membrane tensioning phase of sunshield deployment is especially challenging because there are complex interactions between the structures, the tensioning mechanisms, the cables, and the membranes,” said James Cooper, NASA’s Webb sunshield manager, based at Goddard Space Flight Center.
“This was the hardest part to test on the ground, so it feels awesome to have everything go so well today. The Northrop and NASA team is doing great work, and we look forward to tensioning the remaining layers.”
Once the whole sunshields are deployed, they will all serve as a protective layer for the telescope against solar radiation which could reach a maximum of approximately 383K, approximately 230 degrees F,
But the sunshield will keep the JWST cold at a minimum of approximately 36K or around -394 degrees F.