Want to know the latest details on the James Webb Space Telescope? NASA has a “dashboard” where you can see all the data: location, the current deployment info, temperatures and more.
The “Where’s Webb” site includes everything you want to know as Webb unfolds during its travels out 1.5 million km (1 million miles) to the second Lagrange point, or L2. NASA said the deployments should wrap up about 2 weeks after launch, but it will take another 2 weeks to reach L2.
NASA also has a frequently updated blog on JWST, with details on the latest events.
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Also, NASA said today that over about the next two weeks, they will provide broadcast coverage, media briefings, and other updates on major deployment milestones. Broadcasts of milestone events will air live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
As of today (December 30), the Where’s Webb site reports how the telescope’s momentum flap deployed shortly after 9am EST (1400 UTC). This flap will help counteract forces from the solar wind on the telescope’s gigantic sunshield, helping to conserve propellant. (Find out how the observatory has already conserved propellant, likely extending the mission!) Photons of sunlight hitting the sunshield surface exert pressure on the sunshield. The aft momentum flap uses the pressure of these photons to balance the sunshield and keep Webb steady.
With the momentum flap deployed, the most challenging phase of Webb’s activation can begin: sunshade deploy. Launch restraints holding the folded membranes in place will be released today and protective covers rolled up out of the way.
These deployments all lead to the big one: the actual sunshade extraction, which will begin Friday, December 31. Two midbooms will extend at right angles to the two pallets that were deployed this week. The midbooms will pull out both sides of the 5-layer sunshield. The process is expected to begin around 9:20am (1420 UTC) on the 31st.
Want your own checklist of Webb’s deployment schedule? Dr. Heidi Hammel and colleagues from AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy) have put one together than you can download and print. The AURA site also has a blog updated by Hammel on the latest deployments.
If all goes according to plan, the telescope will be fully deployed 13 days after launch, on January 7, and will reach its final destination orbiting L2 at 29.5 days after launch on January 23. After that, the observatory will undergo five months of turning on instruments and commissioning them, preparing the entire observatory for science operations, expected to begin in the summer of 2022.
In the meantime, enjoy this new high-resolution view of JWST’s separation from the Ariane 5 upper stage, just released today. You can also see the solar array deploy in Earth orbit.