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NASA’s Webb Telescope Completes Sunshield Deployment; Thomas Zurbuchen Quoted

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NASA has announced the full deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope’s 70-foot sunshield.

The five-layered sunshield, which launched on Dec. 25th aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Space Agency’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, is designed to protect the spacecraft from the heat and light ff the sun, Earth and moon, NASA said Tuesday.

The sunshield’s unfolding started on Dec. 28 and concluded Tuesday, Jan. 4. The development started with the deployment of two pallet structures, followed by the Deployable Tower Assembly, aft momentum flap and membrane covers and mid-booms.

“This is the first time anyone has ever attempted to put a telescope this large into space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s science mssion directorate. 

Zurbuchen added that the deployment of the sunshield seeks to reflect the human ingenuity and engineering skill that will enable the space science observatory to reach its science goals.

In the next five months, Webb has to deploy its primary and secondary mirror wings, calibrate science instruments and align the telescope optics before it can transmit its first images.

The sunshield’s unfurling and tensioning involved 139 of the telescope’s 178 release mechanisms, approximately 400 pulleys, 70 hinge assemblies, 90 individual cables and eight deployment motors.