WASHINGTON – NASA is taking a day off to deploy the James Webb Space Telescope after it successfully extended the spacecraft’s canopy arms.
NASA said Jan. 1 that it would wait a day before beginning the process of sealing the five-layer sunblock, finalizing it and making sure the layers are separated. This effort, now scheduled to begin on January 2, will take at least two days to complete.
Spacecraft managers added a break from using sunscreen after work until dawn on December 31 to expand two “middle boom” structures on each side of the spacecraft. These mutations have expanded sunscreen to its normal size. This process started late, when sensors indicated that the sun visor had not been fully coated. The controllers decided to go ahead with implementing the barriers because other data, including from temperature sensors and gyroscopes, was consistent with removing the cover.
“The team did what we were training in this type of situation: pause, evaluate and methodically move forward with the plan,” Keith Parrish, director of the JWST Observatory at Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a December 31 statement. “We still have a long way to go in the entire implementation process.”
The sensor malfunction has been the only problem in the spacecraft’s series of launches since its December 25 launch. NASA noted in a statement that the sunscreen deployment included 107 film-release devices, each of which must work with the sunscreen to properly stretch. The agency said 107 were successfully launched.
And NASA said the one-day break to complete the screen lift will likely push other activities back. The installation is the last step to complete the deployment of the sun visor, after which the controllers will turn their attention to the installation of the telescope mirrors. However, the one-day lapse will have little long-term effect on the mission, which will take six months to complete the telescope and its instruments.
“Today is an example of why we keep saying we don’t believe our rollout schedule can change, but we hope it does,” Parrish said in a December 31 statement regarding the expansion.
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