After effectively broadening booms for the spacecraft’s sunshield, NASA is taking a hiatus in the rollout of the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope). NASA said on January 1 that it was going to wait a day before tensioning the 5-layer sunshield, putting it into its final form, and guaranteeing the layers are isolated from one another.
That attempt had been rescheduled for January 2, but NASA later announced that it would be delaying the tensioning by another day to “optimize Webb’s power systems while understanding more about how observatory operates in orbit.” The tensioning process will begin no early than January 3 and take a minimum of two days to finish.
After laboring late into the night on December 31 to lengthen two “mid-boom” structures on either end of the spacecraft, spacecraft management added the stop in the sunshield deployment. The sunshield was expanded to its full size by those booms. When sensors detected that the sunshield cover still hadn’t fully folded up, the operation began late. Controllers chose to proceed with the boom deployment since additional data, such as temperature sensors and gyroscopes, pointed to the cover being removed.
In a December 31 release, Keith Parrish, observatory manager of JWST at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said, “The team did what we had practiced for this kind of scenario: stop, assess, and move forward gradually with a plan.” “With this entire deployment procedure, we still got a long way to go.”
Since the spacecraft’s launch on December 25, the sensor flaw has been the lone fault in a series of deployments. The sunshield deployment required 107 membrane release devices, each of which had to function properly for the sunshield to broaden correctly, according to NASA. According to the agency, all 107 people were successfully released.
According to NASA, the one-day delay in finishing the sunshield tensioning will certainly push back other activities. The tensioning is the last phase in the deployment of the sunshield, after which the controllers will focus on setting up telescope mirrors. The mission will spend the next six months commissioning the telescope and its instruments, so a one-day slip will have no long-term consequence.
“Today is an illustration of why we maintain to say that we don’t think our deployment timetable will change, but that we anticipate it to,” Parrish said about the booming release in a statement released on December 31.