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.
#NASAWebb is fully deployed! 🎉— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) January 8, 2022
With the successful deployment & latching of our last mirror wing, that's:
50 major deployments, complete.
178 pins, released.
20+ years of work, realized.
Next to #UnfoldTheUniverse: traveling out to our orbital destination of Lagrange point 2! pic.twitter.com/mDfmlaszzV
Mirror, mirror…is deployed. @NASAWebb has taken on its final form. For the next ~6 months, the space telescope will cool down, calibrate its instruments, and prepare to #UnfoldTheUniverse.— NASA (@NASA) January 8, 2022
What cosmic mysteries will it unveil? Stay tuned: https://t.co/cnYZzdHUlt pic.twitter.com/ykhfJeJpk5
Featured Image Source: Artist's depiction of James Webb Space Telescope. Source: NASA/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez