January 22, 2022

Beyond Going Long

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NASA advances spreading sunscreen from the Webb Space Telescope

The engineer who made it possible James Webb Space Telescope It tuned its electrical system to better handle the real space environment, cooling the engines slightly hotter than expected before continuing with the final deployment of the observatory’s critical sun canopy on Monday.

It would take three days to tighten the five thin layers of the parachute and carefully pull it down using robotic cables running through several pulleys, said Bill Ochs, NASA project manager. But on Monday evening, three of the five layers were tightened to form, with the last two waiting to tighten on Tuesday.

spread umbrella It has long been considered one of the sites hardest hurdles“But I don’t expect any drama,” Ochs said.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s five-layer sunscreen is seen during testing at Northrop Grumman’s processing facility in Redondo Beach, California.


“I always tell people it’s better to be boring,” he said. This is what we expect in the next three days. I think we’ll all exhale when the last fifth layer stretches. But I don’t expect drama.”

the web The most expensive scientific probe Sometimes made Management With great pomp atop the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rocket on Christmas Day, which orbits the sun a million miles from Earth.

Webb was designed to capture infrared light from the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang, which is very complex. But in addition to the small, growing pains of the all-new spacecraft, Ochs said the $10 billion observatory is proceeding roughly as planned with initial activation.

“We’re still at the stage of getting to know you with binoculars,” he told reporters on a morning conference call. “All satellites will always be in orbit a little differently from Earth, and it takes time for us to know and understand their characteristics.

“We’ve been through a lot over the past week and we’re still making excellent progress on the commissioning schedule.”

The telescope’s solar field deployed as planned once in space, fired two jets to correct the trajectory, closed the high-gain antenna, and aimed at Earth and its parachute membrane. The two platforms were run in place.

The expandable tower raised the basic Web mirror and instruments four feet above the still-folded sunvisor, providing space and additional insulation from heat from the spacecraft’s electronics. Then “momentum” was deployed to combat the smaller forces generated by the solar wind.

After removing the guards from the way back, two telescopic arms Optimized solar shading panels On New Year’s Eve, the captain stretches the membranes into his now iconic snake-like shape.

“Clearly class tension is the next big step we’re going through,” Ochs said. “If we complete the compression of all five layers, we will fall back somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of the 344 single failure points discussed before the mission.”

He was thinking of a number of non-redundant tools and mechanisms for myriad web deployments, that don’t have a backup in case something goes wrong. All they have to do is work.

An artistic impression of the Webb telescope with perfectly positioned sun visor and optical system.


A sunvisor is needed to block out solar heat, the Webb’s Cold Main Mirror and instruments 21.3 feet wide to about 400 degrees below zero, cool enough to detect the faint infrared light from the first stars and galaxies. Explosion.

To achieve the extremely low temperatures required, each layer must be pulled by motorized cables that are routed through several rollers, a process that also lifts and separates the membrane to allow heat to dissipate.

The final tension occurred over the weekend to give engineers time after a difficult week of deployment and then assess the performance of Webb’s five-panel solar array and its battery system.

As it turned out, the factory presets that control the output of the solar field required adjustments to take into account the actual temperatures Webb encounters in space. The periscopes have also been reoriented slightly to cool the six engines needed to extend the canopy layers.

“Everything is fine and it is going well now,” said Amy Lo, web seller for main contractor Northrop Grumman. “The observatory has never been in danger, we have never been hungry…rebalancing the system gives us a large margin for the expected (expected) increase in performance that we will need as we go forward.”

As for the engines, Low said they were never out of range, just a little warmer than ideal. Webb redirected it on Sunday to improve cooling and “we now have a big reserve for our temperatures.”

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