New video reveals NASA's Webb telescope is 'shaping up'

October 1, 2013 by Rob Gutro

(Phys.org) —NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's sunshield is shaping up and it's the shape and unique design that viewers of a new video will find interesting. A five-layer sunshield helps keep the infrared instruments aboard the Webb telescope as cold as possible by blocking out heat and light.

The video called "Webb's Shaping Up" is part of an ongoing video series about the Webb called "Behind the Webb." It was produced at the Space Telescope Science Institute or STScI in Baltimore, Md., and takes viewers behind the scenes with engineers who are testing or creating the Webb telescope's components.

In the 2-minute-and-34-second video, STScI host Mary Estacion takes the viewer to the Mantech facility in Huntsville, Alabama, to find out just how engineers on the ground are making sure that each layer of the is built correctly.

Mary interviewed Jason Matthew Back, the lead design engineer for the Sunshield at Mantech, who noted that when the sunshield is deployed it will be stretched out under tension, and viewers will notice that although it may appear flat from a distance, it's actually curved like a funnel toward the center of the telescope.

The five layers of the sunshield are shaped differently from each other, and designed to get maximum heat rejection between each layer all the way up to Layer 5 on top. "That means that Layer 1 will always be the hottest facing the sun and Layer 5 will be the coldest, allowing the telescope to achieve optimal operating temperature," Back said.

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The sunshield of the James Webb Space Telescope is made up of five layers of a specially designed material that includes Kapton, aluminum and silicon. But it's not only what it's made of that allows the sunshield to keep the observatory the right temperature to make its observations. Credit: STScI

During the , viewers will see why a laser scanner was used to measure the overall shape of the membrane or layer and build it correctly. Mantech actually does seven different scans in seven different locations. Each scan creates about 407 million points and engineers combine those seven scans together to get enough points to build a solid 3-D shape of the membrane to compare it to our analytical model.

Explore further: Webb sunshield like an umbrella on the shores of the Universe (w/ video)

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3 comments

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Rutzs
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2013
Is there a launch vehicle big enough to launch this thing into space? This telescope is much bigger than I had imagined.

I can't wait to see the images this thing captures.
shavera
5 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2013
Supposed to go up on an ECA Ariane 5

http://www.jwst.n...nch.html
jshloram
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2013
It would be nice to see a ray trace of the sun shield so we could better understand how it 'works'.

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