Video: The Webb Space Telescope's sunshield

Dec 12, 2013

The newest video in the "Behind the Webb" series takes viewers behind the scenes to reveal how the pieces that make up each layer of the James Webb Space Telescope's thin sunshield are bonded together.

NASA's Webb has a five-layer that is as large as a tennis court. The sunshield will help keep the infrared instruments aboard as cold as possible by blocking out heat and light.

The video called "Webb's All Sewn Up" 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 4 minute and 9 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 working with the sunshield layers and binding them together.

Mary interviewed John Cranston, the sunshield process engineer at Mantech's NeXolve Corporation who described Kapton, the raw material that creates the sunshield. NeXolve is a subsidiary of ManTech International Corporation and completed the manufacturing of all template layers for the Webb Telescope sunshield.

Cranston showed viewers Kapton and explained how the aluminum and silicon coatings that are applied to some sunshield layers work.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Each of the five layers consists of at least 55 individual pieces or "gores" of Kapton bonded together, and each layer is shaped slightly differently. The first layer faces the sun and will be the hottest, while the fifth layer faces the telescope and instruments and will be the coolest.

Bonding the extremely thin gores of the sunshield together to achieve precise shapes is vital to the sunshield's performance and was a significant engineering challenge. Engineers couldn't use glue because it would add too much mass.

In the , Mary takes viewers to see where the individual pieces will be seamed together by a thermal welding technique on what is called the "spot bonding machine." The machine applies just the right amount of heat to the material in small spots to fuse it together but not so much that it burns through.

Explore further: Video gives astronaut's-eye view inside NASA's Orion spacecraft

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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

Oct 01, 2013

(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 ...

Tests under way on the sunshield for Webb telescope

Sep 19, 2011

NASA is testing an element of the sunshield that will protect the James Webb Space Telescope's mirrors and instruments during its mission to observe the most distant objects in the universe.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

User comments : 0

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.