NASA engineers have made a success of deploying the wings or side portions of the James Webb Space Telescope at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; the repaired portion is the backplane structure that folds up when the equipment is in use - according to a NASA blog post.
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The importance of the wings and telescope structure lies in the fact that they constitute the carbon fiber framework that sustains the 18 mirrors and the tower that hold up the main mirror of the telescope.
"We deploy the wings one at a time. Each individual deployment can take up to 16 hours or more to complete," said Adam Carpenter, Mechanical Integration Engineer at Goddard, preparing together with other engineers to work on the main wings. "It is a delicate operation requiring multiple groups to perform specific tasks."
In earnest preparation for the task, engineers used cables to line up the structure of the telescope. After it is deployed into space, the cables will assist the telescope to open up and will also supply electrical signals that the active mirror portions will use to detect target images. The cables need to be specially arranged with utmost care so that they will not block the telescope when it is deployed, and so the engineers carried out wing tests to ensure this is perfect enough.
"The two wings of the telescope structure will eventually hold 6 of Webb's 18 primary mirror segment assemblies," said Carpenter said. "They are necessary so that the observatory can fold up in order to fit into the launch vehicle."
After it is fully assembled, the James Webb Space telescope should be larger than any rocket that is capable of sending the telescope off into space, and this was what was behind the minds of the engineers when they designed the telescope to fold like origami inside its Ariane 5 rocket. The Webb will be dispatched off one million miles into deep space after it has been launched.
Once it is launched to one million miles away from Earth where it will finally rest, the Webb telescope will capture images of earliest galaxies as they formed nearly 13.5 billion years ago, and it will also be able to peer through interstellar dust clouds to capture stars and planets just forming within our own galaxy. This will be at cold temperature of -387 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 Kelvin – 260 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the coldest place on Earth.
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Designed and built by NASA in an international collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency, the James Webb Space Telescope will ultimately succeed NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.