The James Webb Space Telescope's road ahead
After its Christmas Day launch, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has started to successfully deploy on the way to its perch 1 million miles from Earth.
Why it matters: The deployment of the $10 billion telescope is one of the riskiest parts of its mission. Getting through this phase will pave the way for the JWST's important science to come.
What's happening: This week, engineers "tensioned" the JWST's tennis court-sized sun shield that will keep the telescope's instruments cold, allowing it to more easily see out into the universe in infrared light.
- The first three layers of the five-layer sun shield deployed Monday, with the final two successfully tensioned on Tuesday.
- "This is a really big moment," JWST project manager Bill Ochs said after the sun shield was fully tensioned.
- Now that all five layers of the sun shield are through tensioning, the telescope is about 70%–75% of the way through the 344 single points of failure that could spell major trouble for the telescope.
What's next: The JWST's next big event is the deployment of its secondary mirror used to reflect light back to its large gold-coated primary mirror.
- That deployment should happen later this week.
- If all goes according to plan with its commissioning and deployments, the JWST should start science operations toward the middle of the year.