Successful test of NASA’s James Webb Telescope solar shield

NASA’s fully-assembled five-layer James Webb Space Telescope solar shield, the size of a tennis court, has successfully passed the final series of large-scale deployment and traction tests. The success of this experiment brings the James Webb Telescope one step closer to launch in 2021.

According to ISNA and quoted by Fiz, “This is one of the greatest achievements of James Webb in 2020,” said Alphonso Stewart, leader of the James Webb Telescope Deployment Systems at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. We were able to perform the unfolding operation in a completely slow and controlled way and maintain its kite shape, which shows that this part of the space telescope is ready to operate in space.

The solar shield protects the telescope and reflects light and heat from the sun, earth and moon into space. The observatory must be kept cool to conduct scientific experiments in the infrared light wave, which is invisible to the human eye and is felt as heat.

Innovative technologies of the James Webb Telescope’s solar shield and the infrared sensitive sensors built into the shield allow scientists to observe distant galaxies and study many other fascinating objects in the universe. Protecting and maintaining the structure of the solar shield is also a delicate and complex process.

“Congratulations to the entire team,” said James Cooper, director of NASA’s James Zoob Space Telescope at Godard. Due to the large size of the telescope, we have to be precise in our experiments, and the deployment operation is extremely complex. In addition to technical expertise, careful planning, determination, patience, and proper communication are required to perform this set of tests. By doing this, the researchers showed that they have all these characteristics. It is amazing to think that the next time the solar shield is deployed it will be thousands of miles away and pass through space.

Kapton polymer-coated membranes were fully deployed in Northrop Grumman off the coast of Redondo, California, in December and underwent tensile testing. Northrop Grumman designed the observatory’s solar shield for NASA.

During the experiment, engineers sent a series of commands to the spacecraft’s hardware, activating 139 mechanical actuators, eight engines and thousands of other components to finalize and shape the five solar shield membranes. A challenging part of this experiment is the opening of the solar shield in the gravitational field because, unlike in space, where the exposed material is not affected by gravity, this causes friction. During launch, both sides of the observatory’s solar shield are retracted and placed in the Arian 5 launcher provided by the European Space Agency.

In this experiment, the two structures of the solar shield pallet are folded to a standing position, and then two large “arms” (known as mid-boom assemblies) gently guide the sun shield out of the telescope and pull the folded membranes along with them to Their movements resemble the very slow movements of a simultaneous dance. When the arms are locked and positioned in a horizontal position, the solar shield membrane successfully begins to stretch separately with the bottom layer, and each opens in a fully positioned position.

The large solar shield places one side of the observatory on a warm, sunny side (about 185 degrees Fahrenheit) and one side on a cold surface (minus 388 degrees Fahrenheit). The solar shield protects the observatory’s light and sensors, so the telescope is not damaged even at very cold temperatures and can perform scientific experiments.

“The success of these experiments shows that the telescope is preparing to launch,” said Bill Ochs, project manager for the James Webb Telescope. Our engineers and technicians made incredible strides in testing this month, and with the completion of these tests, they did an important job of launching next year. Engineers are now preparing for the final observation of the observatory’s post-environmental deployment test over the next few months, before sending it to the launch site next summer.

The James Webb Telescope has undergone other rigorous deployment tests during development. The results of these experiments confirm that this telescope and many of its equipments will work perfectly and perfectly when launched into orbit.

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