NASA announced that all of the hexagonal mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope have been deployed. The delicate task of removing the $10 billion (approximately Rs. 74,500 crores) space observatory’s individual mirror parts from their launch positions took over a week, with the motors turning over a million times. Engineers transmitted orders to tiny motors called actuators to carefully advance each section approximately half the length of a paper clip so that they had enough space for mirror alignment, according to the space agency. Engineers have started a month-long procedure to focus the telescope.
The primary mirror of the James Webb telescope is made up of 18 gold-plated beryllium metal hexagonal segments. The mirror measures 21 feet and four inches in diameter when all parts are aligned. When compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched 30 years ago, the primary mirror is much larger. The Hubble will be replaced by the more powerful James Webb after its deployment processes are completed.
“The mirror deployment team moved all 132 actuators on the back of the primary and secondary mirror segments in stages. In a blog post, Erin Wolf, Webb program manager at Ball Aerospace, the Colorado-based company that designed and built the telescope’s superior optical technology and lightweight mirror system, stated the primary mirror segments were driven 12.5mm out from the telescope construction.
NASA recently posted a GIF detailing the function of these motors, or actuators, to help people understand how they work.
On Twitter, NASA also offered a “fun fact.” It claims that the beryllium metal used in the primary mirror’s 18 hexagonal pieces is six times stronger than steel. “However, despite beryllium’s strength, the motors can actually shape the curvature of each mirror section individually,” it continued.
After the launch on December 25, the 18 segments were folded together to fit aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, which took the telescope to orbit. NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency collaborated to build the telescope.