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: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Testing completed on James Webb Space Telescope backplane

Jul 09, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached another development milestone with the completion of static load testing of its primary mirror backplane support structure (PMBSS) moving the telescope ...

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

Exploring Mars in low Earth orbit

15 hours ago

In their quest to understand life's potential beyond Earth, astrobiologists study how organisms might survive in numerous environments, from the surface of Mars to the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter's moon, ...

Lifetime of gravity measurements heralds new beginning

17 hours ago

Although ESA's GOCE satellite is no more, all of the measurements it gathered during its life skirting the fringes our atmosphere, including the very last as it drifted slowly back to Earth, have been drawn ...

NASA's IceCube no longer on ice

21 hours ago

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has chosen a team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to build its first Earth science-related CubeSat mission.

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.