NASA’s James Webb telescope completes final unfolding in space : NPR

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Technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in April 2017. On Saturday, the telescope completed its final deployment in space.

Laura Betz/AP


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Laura Betz/AP

Technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in April 2017. On Saturday, the telescope completed its final deployment in space.

Laura Betz/AP

The James Webb telescope completed its final major step of deployment on Saturday morning, when the last mirror wing of the telescope unfolded in space into its final configuration.

The telescope, which is an international partnership that also includes the European and Canadian space agencies, launched on Dec. 25 and is considered to be the most powerful telescope ever launched into space. While there were no cameras to capture the unfolding, NASA provided a virtual simulation of the process through a livestream.

At around 10:28 a.m. ET, the telescope reached the “end of deployment” and those at the mission operations control started applauding.

The telescope has two mirrors and a sunshield that all had to be unfolded in space since it was launched, which had never been done before. The mirrors are so large they were folded like origami into the telescope. One of the mirrors and the sun shield deployed successfully earlier this week.

The full deployment of the telescope has been a meticulous two-week process, but it’s not done yet. After the wing unfolded, it goes through a latch-on process that takes several hours.

NASA says the next step after that involves five months of alignment and calibration before the telescope starts picking up images.





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