Thousands of parts must work correctly, in sequence, to unfold NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into its final configuration, all while it flies to a destination nearly 1 million miles away.
Over about the next two weeks, NASA will provide broadcast coverage, a media briefing, and other updates on major deployment milestones for the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful space science telescope.
Broadcasts of milestone events will air live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
Webb, an international partnership with the ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency, launched Dec. 25 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The observatory had been folded up, origami style, to fit inside an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket for launch. Webb is now in the complex and intricate process of unfolding in space, as it travels nearly 1 million miles to its destination, the second Lagrange point or L2.
Webb’s deployment sequence is a human-controlled process that provides the team with the flexibility to pause, assess data, and adjust as needed. The timing and order of all milestones may therefore change. NASA will host live broadcast coverage to mark the following milestones, with specific times and dates updated as they approach:
- Sunshield tensioning: The full deployment of the sunshield, the most challenging element for Webb, will mark a critical milestone for the mission. This step is scheduled for completion about eight days after launch, no earlier than Sunday, Jan. 2.
- Secondary mirror support structure deployment: The support structure that holds the secondary mirror in position to focus light collected by the primary mirror is set for deployment about 10 days after launch, no earlier than Tuesday, Jan. 4.
- Webb deployments complete: With the unfolding of the second of Webb’s primary mirror wings, the Webb team will have completed all observatory deployments. This is scheduled to take place about 13 days after launch, no earlier than Friday, Jan. 7.
NASA provides regular updates on the Webb telescope blog. The public can also follow Webb’s deployments online via a “Where is Webb?” interactive tracker and a Deployments Explorer.