New from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope successfully deployed a critical antenna on Sunday (December 26), just one day after its Christmas launch into space.
The space telescope has deployed what scientists call an oscillating antenna array that carries the high-speed data antenna responsible for sending Webb’s observations of the early universe back to Earth. Webb launched into space Saturday on an Ariane 5 rocket that lifted off from a spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
“This antenna will be used to send at least 28.6 Gbytes of scientific data from the observatory twice a day,” NASA officials wrote. in a mission update. “The team has already launched and tested the movement of the antenna assembly; the whole process took about an hour ”.
The $ 10 billion Webb Space Telescope is designed to study the universe’s first stars and other cosmic mysteries. It is the largest and most powerful telescope ever launched into space.
Saturday’s antenna deployment was the latest in a month-long series of steps to prepare the space telescope for its deep space observing mission. Webb is currently on a 29-day journey to a stable point in space called Lagrange Point 2, or L2, which is nearly 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth. From there, the infrared space telescope will observe the universe.
In addition to antenna deployment and testing, Webb flight controllers activated the telescope’s temperature and voltage gauges for the first time, according to a NASA update. These gauges will allow flight controllers to monitor the temperature and structural integrity of the Webb Space Telescope in the coming days.
Getting an accurate reading of Webb’s temperature and structural loads is critical for mission scientists and engineers, because one of the most harrowing periods for the space telescope is yet to come: the deployment of its massive sunscreen.
The James Webb Space Telescope is an infrared observatory designed to make the most detailed observations of all time, but only if it can be kept cool enough. To do this, Webb will launch a massive, multi-layered, tennis-court-sized sunscreen that will roll out in stages over the first eight days after launch. The first stage of this deployment process is scheduled to begin on Tuesday (December 28), three days after the start of the mission.