NASA delays tightening James Webb Space Telescope sunshield to study power system

Home News Spaceflight A graphic depicts the James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield unfurled. (Image credit: NASA) NASA personnel are spending the day studying the power subsystem of the massive James Webb Space Telescope to ensure the observatory is ready to execute a key procedure: tensioning its vast sunshield.The Webb space telescope, which launched…

A graphic depicts the James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield unfurled.
A graphic depicts the James Webb Role Telescope with its sunshield unfurled. (Picture credit: NASA)

NASA personnel are spending the day learning the capacity subsystem of the gigantic James Webb Role Telescope to catch particular the observatory is ready to manufacture a key activity: tensioning its immense sunshield.

The Webb location telescope, which launched on Dec. 25, is conducting a month-lengthy deployment activity obligatory to prepare the telescope to build up data. Nonetheless most steps in that activity are controlled from the floor: Whereas NASA has a tentative schedule for the work, mission leaders can pick to alter the timeline along the come. So after taking Saturday (Jan. 1) as a relaxation day, the Webb group is spending Sunday (Jan. 2) learning the observatory’s energy subsystem, NASA introduced.

“Nothing we are able to be taught from simulations on the floor is as moral as inspecting the observatory when or no longer it is up and running,” Bill Ochs, Webb project manager at NASA’s Goddard Role Flight Heart (GSFC) in Maryland, stated in an company advise launched Sunday (Jan. 2). “Now is the time to grab the chance to be taught all the pieces we are able to about its baseline operations. Then we are able to grab the next steps.”

Dwell updates: NASA’s James Webb Role Telescope mission

Linked: How the James Webb Role Telescope works in images

Particularly, the group is inquisitive referring to the temperature of a location of motors which might be light at some stage in sunshield tensioning, the arrangement that separates and smooths the 5 calm layers of the kite-formed sun deflector. (Webb makes a speciality of infrared observations, that are sensitive to heat, making the sunshield a a must-have ingredient of the observatory.)

“We have spent 20 years on the floor with Webb, designing, increasing, and attempting out,”  Mike Menzel, Webb’s lead programs engineer at GSFC stated in the identical advise. “We have had a week to gaze how the observatory essentially behaves in location. It be no longer weird and wonderful to be taught particular characteristics of your spacecraft whenever you are in flight. That is what we’re doing factual now. To date, essentially the foremost deployments we have completed have long gone about as simply as we might perhaps well have hoped for. Nonetheless we want to grab our time and realize all the pieces we are able to referring to the observatory sooner than animated forward.”

Tensioning the sunshield is a complex activity that NASA expects to grab two days. NASA on the origin intended to originate the work on Saturday, nonetheless Friday’s operations ran later than anticipated and the group determined to grab Unique 365 days’s Day to relaxation.

And when mission managers determined to grab a more in-depth gaze on the motor temperatures, they did no longer prefer the group to be working on two facets of the observatory instantly.

After the sunshield is entirely tensioned, the group will switch on to deploying the secondary replicate.

Even supposing deployment has paused, the observatory is calm making growth. As of ethical sooner than 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT), Webb turned into extra than 510,000 miles (825,000 kilometers) a ways off from Earth, or 57% of the come to its final vacation location of the Earth-sun Lagrange point 2. That point, most steadily identified as L2, is positioned nearly 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth in the direction reverse the sun.

Email Meghan Bartels at or apply her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Discover us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb. 

Join our Role Forums to inspire talking location on the latest missions, evening sky and extra! And should you’re going to have a news tip, correction or observation, let us know at:

Meghan Bartels

Meghan is a senior creator at and has extra than 5 years’ trip as a science journalist primarily based entirely mostly in Unique York City. She joined in July 2018, with outdated writing printed in retailers at the side of Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from Unique York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys learning and visiting museums. Discover her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.