NASA engineers today, around 4:00 PM CET, began stretching the shield on the James Webb Space Telescope, which will protect the cameras from the heat of the sun’s rays.
They announced this at a press conference, during which they also confirmed that nine days after the launch from Earth, the facility is in good condition, although in recent days the team has encountered two minor complications. To date, the telescope has traveled more than 60 percent of its way to its target position, over 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
NASA today hosted the first press conference since the launch of the rocket with the telescope on December 25. According to their engineers, they are getting acquainted with the functioning of the observatory in space, because some characteristics of the machine could not be sufficiently imitated in simulations.
According to the original plan, the stretching of the sunshine was supposed to start on Saturday, but NASA decided to give its engineers a day off for the New Year and on Sunday it dealt with two minor complications.Read also Slovak and Czech observers have “discovered and photographed” the James Webb telescope
On the one hand, the telescope’s solar panels did not produce as much energy as the engineers expected, so they had to slightly adjust their settings compared to those the telescope still had from Earth. The second problem concerned the motorcycles, which are in charge of developing and tensioning the sunshade itself. Their temperature was higher than they expected, so the control center slightly adjusted the telescope’s rotation toward the Sun to provide them with sufficient cooling.
Today, however, everything was ready to stretch the shield, which will be a several-day and very delicate operation, on which the success of the entire mission depends. During its operation, the telescope will be permanently turned with a shield towards the Sun, and its giant mirror and detection devices will be on the other side. On the “hot” side of the facility, the temperature can rise to 110 degrees Celsius, but the other side must keep the temperature below minus 223 degrees Celsius for the observatory to function successfully.Read also Webb’s telescope will explore the history of the universe and search for possible life
The heat shield consists of five layers of a special material called Kapton. The outer layer, which will be the only one to face direct sunlight, is 0.05 millimeters thick, the other four are then twice as thin, and have approximately the thickness of a human hair.
James Webb’s telescope is the largest and most powerful space telescope launched by humans to date. Unlike the Hubble Telescope, it will not observe the universe from the Earth’s low orbit, but from the so-called second Lagrange point (L2), where the gravitational forces of the Earth and the Sun balance. As a result, the telescope can maintain a stable position while being far enough away from the Sun to capture the very faint infrared radiation that reaches its mirrors from the first stars and galaxies that formed 13.5 billion years ago.Read also The space telescope has made the first key maneuver – correcting its trajectory
The telescope is expected to arrive at its final orbit around L2 at the end of January. This will be followed by several months of very fine calibrations. The first photos should be available in the middle of the year. Given the telescope’s long distance from the Earth, it is essentially inconceivable that the device could be repaired if any of its components proved to be defective, as was the case with the Hubble Telescope. This is one of the reasons why the development of the James Webb Telescope took several decades, and this fact also limits the life of the entire observatory. The telescope will have to slightly adjust its position to stay in the coveted orbit, and it should have enough fuel for at least ten years of operation.
One of NASA’s engineers said that according to the development of the flight so far, the telescope’s fuel could last several years longer. However, according to him, it is not yet clear how exactly the device will still consume it before it is put into operation.
Source: Pravda – Veda a technika by vat.pravda.sk.
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