WASHINGTON – NASA took a day off to deploy the James Webb Space Telescope after it successfully extended the spacecraft’s parachute arms.
NASA said Jan. 1 that it would wait a day before beginning the process of stretching the five-layer sun canopy, 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 operators added a pause in parachute deployment after work late on the night of December 31 to extend the two “middle boom” structures on either side of the spacecraft. These breakthroughs have expanded sunscreen to its fullest extent. This process started late when sensors indicated that the sun visor had not been fully coated. The monitors decided to go ahead with the weapons’ deployment because other data, including temperature sensors and gyroscopes, was consistent with the cover removal.
“The team did what we were trained to do in this type of situation: pause, assess, and systematically follow a 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 distribution process.”
This sensor malfunction has been the only problem in a series of spacecraft deployments since its launch on December 25. NASA noted in a statement that the sunscreen’s deployment relied on 107 film-release devices, each of which must work with the sunscreen to stretch properly. The agency said 107 were successfully released.
And NASA said a one-day pause in completing the brow lift is likely to fend off any further activity. Screwing is the final step in completing the opening of the canopy, after which the controllers will turn their attention to the installation of the telescope’s mirrors. However, a day’s slip 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 continue to say that we do not believe our distribution program will change, but we expect it to,” Parrish said in a December 31 statement regarding the spread of the boom.
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