NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to face ’29 days on the edge’ after launch on December 18 (video)


NASA’s newest space telescope will face a “heart-wrenching” 29 days after launch as it heads to a deep space destination nearly 1.6 million kilometers from Earth, said the agency in a new YouTube video.

The video, titled “29 Days on the Edge”, was released on Monday October 18th. It focuses on the travel and 50 expected deployments of the James Webb Space Telescope after its scheduled launch on December 18.

The telescope has been significantly delayed over the years due to technological challenges, the coronavirus pandemic, and other issues. And there will also be significant hurdles to overcome after launch.

“We have 300 single point failure elements, and they all need to be working fine. When you’re a million miles from Earth, you can’t send someone to fix it,” said Greg Robinson, director of Webb program, in the video.

Once Webb breaks through that gauntlet, he will begin to make observations that could transform our understanding of the cosmos. Scientists will use the telescope to learn more about the early days of the universe and investigate the atmospheres and nature of distant exoplanets, among other tasks, NASA officials said.

Related: Construction of the James Webb Space Telescope (gallery)

The new nine-minute video focuses on the many technological hurdles Webb faces. For example, its 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) mirror is designed to “fold like an origami,” as the video notes, as the mirror needs to fit inside the payload fairing. of its Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket during launch. The process should take place in space, far from direct human assistance.

The Ariane 5 has to do its job on December 18, of course. And Webb’s own thrusters also need to work fine, especially around 12 hours after takeoff when they’re supposed to go off and send Webb to his destination in deep space. As Webb makes this trip, he will be pushed by the solar wind or the constant flow of particles from the sun, so the telescope will unfold a “tuning tab” for more stability.

One of the biggest things Webb will have to deploy is a complex tennis court-sized sunshade assembly that includes 140 trigger mechanisms, 70 hinge assemblies, 400 pulleys, 90 cables and 8 motors. deployment, bearing springs and gears, according to NASA in the video. All of these will need to work properly for the sunshade to unfold so Webb can do his science work.

But NASA maintains that his years of training and project management will help Webb in this complex set of operations. “These two weeks after launch will be like our Super Bowl, World Cup – you choose the analogy,” says Amy Lo, Webb’s deputy director for vehicle engineering, in the video. “Years of training boil down to these moments.”

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


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