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

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

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

11 hours ago

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

11 hours ago

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

Jul 25, 2014

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

Jul 25, 2014

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

Biomarkers of the deep

Jul 25, 2014

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Spain is a unique geological site that has fascinated astrobiologists for decades. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in Spain's Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit ...

User comments : 0