Powerful NASA James Webb Space Telescope Completes Complex Deployment Sequence, Continues Journey To Uncover Mysteries Of The Universe

Powerful NASA James Webb Space Telescope Completes Complex Deployment Sequence, Continues Journey To Uncover Mysteries Of The Universe

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and European Space Agency (ESA) formed a partnership to develop and the world’s most powerful and largest telescope in history – the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It is designed to unveil mysteries about the origins of the Universe. The telescopes onboard technology is capable of observing distant galaxies that are billions of years older than the Milky Way to provide scientists with more knowledge about our cosmic history.

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched to space atop a Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket from Launchpad ELA-3 at the Guiana Space Centre in South America on Saturday, December 25 at 7:20 a.m. ET. James Webb is the most complex telescope ever deployed. The observatory had 50 major deployments consisting of 178 complex release mechanisms. It took two-weeks to deploy each of the 50 parts. The two sections of Webb’s primary mirror consist of 18 gold-plated hexagons that were designed to be folded to fit inside the nose cone of the rocket prior to launch (pictured below). Engineers remotely commanded the space vehicle to unfold the hexagonal segments of the telescope’s primary mirror this week. Today, January 8, the $10 billion dollar telescope completed the entire deployment sequence. “NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope team fully deployed its 21-foot, gold-coated primary mirror, successfully completing the final stage of all major spacecraft deployments to prepare for science operations,” the agency announced in a press release. 

“Today, NASA achieved another engineering milestone decades in the making. While the journey is not complete, I join the Webb team in breathing a little easier and imagining the future breakthroughs bound to inspire the world,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The James Webb Space Telescope is an unprecedented mission that is on the precipice of seeing the light from the first galaxies and discovering the mysteries of our universe. Each feat already achieved and future accomplishment is a testament to the thousands of innovators who poured their life’s passion into this mission.”

The telescope is headed for the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2 (L2) orbit, which is a gravitationally stable spot around 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth. It will take around 2 more weeks for JWST to arrive to that specific L2 orbit. JWST will fire its onboard thrusters to arrive to its operational orbit where it will live out the rest of its life observing distant galaxies until it runs out of fuel in around 5 to 10 years. NASA shared that engineers will now begin to remotely move 18 primary mirror segments to align the telescope optics. “The ground team will command 126 actuators on the backsides of the segments to flex each mirror – an alignment that will take [around three] months to complete. Then the team will calibrate the science instruments prior to delivering Webb’s first images this summer,” the agency stated. 

Featured Image Source: Artist's depiction of James Webb Space Telescope. Source: NASA/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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