James Webb Space Telescope Fully Deployed
Updated: Mar 21, 2022
January 11, 2022 | Space
The James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex telescope ever launched into space, is now fully deployed and more than halfway to its destination in the L2 section of our solar system.
The James Webb Space Telescope first launched on December 24, 2021, from the Guaina Space Center in Korou, French Guiana. Since then, it has traveled 705,400 miles from Earth at 0.22 miles per second. The telescope is experiencing temperatures ranging from 131°F in the sun to -298°F in the shade.
Along its journey, the JWST has
successfully deployed many of its
features that will help it get to and fully operate over the course of the telescope’s lifespan. The first milestone after liftoff was the Upper Stage Separation that took place 27 minutes after liftoff. This released Webb and let it fly on its own in a fully stowed state. Shortly after, the Webb’s Solar Array was released and deployed, allowing the telescope to go off battery power and start generating its own power. Next, Webb deployed the Gimbaled Antenna Assembly, allowing communication back to Earth through its high-rate antenna. Three days after launch, the Sunshield deployment phase began with the Forward Sunshield Pallet and Aft Sunshield Pallet. These sunshields protect and warm key deployment components and signaled the start of the Webb’s major deployments.
Full deployment of the JWST continued along its journey. Four days after launch, the Deployable Tower Assembly locked into place. This tower facilitates better thermal isolation and room for the sunshield membranes to unfold. Next, the Aft Momentum Flap, used to offset some of the solar pressure on the large sunshield, deployed followed closely by the release of the Sunshield Covers. The Sunshield PORT Mid-Boom and STARBOARD Mid-Boom deployment completed the sunshield cover roll up. After that was a multi-step two-day deployment of the Sunshield Layer Tensioning, occurred 10 days after launch. Temperatures on the Sun/hot side of the sunshield can reach 230°F and on the cool side can dip to -394°F. Following the tensioning, the Secondary Mirror Deployment began, setting the support structure into its operational position to reflect light from the primary mirror to where the instruments sit.
Thirteen days after launch, the Primary Mirror deployment phase began. The Port and Starboard Primary Mirror Wings deployed into its operational position. Each wing holds 3 of the 18 mirror segments.
Fourteen days after launch, the James Webb Space Telescope is fully deployed. It will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers across the planet. It will study the Universe previously unknown, from the formations to evolution of our own solar system. In five months, we should see our first images from the most powerful telescope ever deployed. An amazing engineering accomplishment!
To learn more about the James Webb Space Telescope and its journey into position, check out: https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/