The James Webb Space Telescope has taken many years to get to where it is today. It survived complete cancellation in November 2011, infrared systems installation, and other instrument installs in 2012 through 2014. Despite a delay last year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the project is still managing to gain momentum toward the finish line. The James Webb Space Telescope is continuing towards its Halloween 2021 launch by hitting the milestone of having its massive protective sunshield folded and packed up to journey into space.
The telescopes mammoth sunshield will protect the telescopes many optics from the immense heat and light of the sun. Folding the mirrors took one month to complete; they fold up on two sides of the telescope when not in use. The sunshield is about the size of a tennis court when fully deployed and is made up of 18 individual mirrors composed of five layers. Its entire span measures an estimated 70′ x 47′ with a cost of almost $10 billion. Since this telescope has infrared to detect and read heat signatures, the mirrors must be kept extremely cold. Once in space, one side of the mirror will reflect the heat and light from the Earth, Sun, and the Moon, which studies show to be approximately 230°F on the outermost layers. NASA worked with Northrop Grumman to build James Webb into a reality.
We, at Lenox Laser, designed and provided alignment targets for the infrared systems on James Webb, for which we are most grateful for the opportunity. If you would like to know more about Lenox Laser’s work for the James Webb telescope, click here. If you would like to read more about the latest development on the telescope, click here for an article by phys.org.