NASA's Webb Telescope sunshield preliminary design review complete

March 20, 2008
NASA's Webb Telescope sunshield preliminary design review complete
This photograph shows the engineering model of the sunshield, called the pathfinder. Credit: Northrop Grumman

The tennis court-sized sunshield built by Northrop Grumman for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has completed its preliminary design review at the company’s Space Technology facility.

The Webb Telescope is the next-generation space observatory, designed to explore phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets and stars. From the origins of the universe to the formation of star systems capable of supporting life on planets such as Earth, the Webb telescope will give scientists unprecedented access to unexplored regions of space.

"The sunshield is absolutely critical to the Webb telescope mission" says Keith Parrish, JWST Sunshield Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "It will be folded up around the telescope when the telescope is aboard its rocket during launch. The sunshield will then deploy in space to shade the sensitive, precision telescope optics and science instruments from the Sun and enable the observatory to reach its proper operating temperature and environment. Without it, the telescope and instruments can’t work. Northrop Grumman is leveraging their experience in large deployable structures in space to come up with a design that will do the job for the Webb telescope."

The five-layer sunshield consists of extremely thin, specially coated reflective membranes and a supporting structure. The sunshield blocks solar heat, keeping the telescope’s science instruments operating at cryogenic temperatures so astronomers can study distant galaxies, young stars and planetary systems at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths.

"The completion of the preliminary design review allows the detailed engineering design to move forward and maintains the delivery schedule for the Observatory," said Martin Mohan, Program Manager for the Webb Telescope.

Completion of the preliminary sunshield design is the latest in a series of significant accomplishments. One year ago, the Northrop Grumman engineers developing sunshield membrane materials demonstrated that the sunshield prototype material had been successfully tested, functioning as predicted, in a relevant environment (simulating space).

Northrop Grumman is prime contactor for the Webb Telescope, leading the design and development effort under contract to NASA Goddard. It is scheduled for launch in 2013.

Source: Goddard Space Flight Center

Explore further: James Webb Space Telescope's ISIM passes severe-sound test

Related Stories

James Webb Space Telescope's ISIM passes severe-sound test

September 3, 2015

A critical part of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope successfully completed acoustic testing during the week of Aug. 3. The Integrated Science Instrument Module, or ISIM, passed all of the "severe sound" tests that engineers ...

Webb sunshield gives an 'open wide' for inspection

August 12, 2015

The sunshield on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the largest part of the observatory—five layers of thin, silvery membrane that must unfurl reliably in space. The precision in which the tennis-court sized sunshield ...

James Webb Space Telescope sunshield test unfolds seamlessly

October 3, 2014

(Phys.org) —A major test of the sunshield for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope was conducted recently by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. For the first time, the five sunshield test layers were unfolded and ...

Recommended for you

Astronomers detect the farthest galaxy yet with Keck telescope

September 4, 2015

A team of Caltech researchers that has spent years searching for the earliest objects in the universe now reports the detection of what may be the most distant galaxy ever found. In an article published August 28, 2015 in Astrophysical ...

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

drknowledge
not rated yet Apr 23, 2008
These articles which describe one of many steps to completion don't describe anything new, but are simply advertisements to keep the project in the public eye. I personally feel PhysOrg should not be about self-advertisement. When many phases of many projects are given articles, it makes it harder to sift through articles for what is genuinely new.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.