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The James Webb Space Telescope has begun a critical deployment of the Sun Shield

Animation to publish Webb sunshield. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Early this afternoon, the Webb mission operations team finished deploying the first of two structures that hold the most complex and unpredictable component in Webb: the sunscreen.

The structures — called standardized front and rear panel structures — contain the five carefully folded sunscreen films, as well as the cables, pulleys and release mechanisms that make up Webb’s sunvisor. The team completed forward pallet deployment around 1:21 p.m. EDT, after starting the entire operation about four hours earlier. The team will now move to a rear pallet deployment.

Webb Boom Sunshield Edition

J- Publishing Boom and Sun Shield. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

The forward pallet deployment required several hours of the mission operations team carefully walking through dozens of steps – only one of which was the actual motor-driven deployment to move the pallet from the storage location to the deployed state. Lowering the front pallet also marks the first time this chassis has performed this motion since it underwent final detection and deployment testing in December 2020 at Northrop Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach, California.

Webb's ultimate mirror folding test

Engineers at Northrop Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach, California oversee Webb’s final mirror-folding test in April 2021. The front-loading platform chassis is shown here in the foreground, in its unfolded state. Credit: Northrop Grumman

Deployment of the platform structures begins what will be at least five more days of steps necessary to deploy the sunvisor – a process that will ultimately determine the mission’s ability to succeed. If a solar shield wasn’t in place to keep Webb’s telescope and instruments so cold, Webb wouldn’t be able to observe the universe the way it was designed.

instructions – shown here After today, he will continue to expand the deployable tower assembly, followed by releasing the sun visors caps, extending the booms, and finally tightening the five Kapton layers of the sun visor itself.

As deployment of the Sun Shield will be one of the most challenging spacecraft deployments NASA Ever since, the mission operations team has built flexibility into the planned schedule, so that the schedule and even the sequence of next steps can be changed in the coming days.

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