NASA's Webb Telescope sunshield preliminary design review complete

Mar 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: NASA signs agreement with SpaceX for use of historic launch pad

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists assemble new space telescope

Mar 11, 2014

Scientists and engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center have begun to assemble and test the James Webb Space Telescope in advance of its 2018 debut.

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.

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

Vegetables on Mars within ten years?

Apr 15, 2014

The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops – this is the prognosis of a study by plant ecologist Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen UR. This would prove highly practical if we ever decide to ...

User comments : 1

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.

More news stories

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...