Today, at 3:48 pm EST, the Webb team finished tensioning the first layer of the observatory’s sunshield– that is, tightening it into its final, completely taut position. This is the first of five layers that will each be tightened in turn over the next two to three days, until the observatory’s sunshield is fully deployed. The process began around 10 am EST.
This layer is the largest of the five, and the one that will experience the brunt of the heat from the Sun. The tennis-court-sized sunshield helps keep the telescope cold enough to detect the infrared light it was built to observe.
The team has now begun tensioning the second layer.
After exhausting all its fuel and bringing Webb to speeds of approximately 16 thousand miles per hour, the main stage engine of the Ariane 5 has shut down and been jettisoned. The upper stage engine has ignited. It will burn for approximately 16 minutes, beginning Webb on its journey to its final orbit around the second Lagrange point, commonly known as L2, a point on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun, directly on a path towards L2 on which it will continue for four weeks.
The Ariane 5 upper stage will now begin a special rolling maneuver to protect Webb from solar radiation after fairing separation. It will continue this maneuver until Webb is released from the upper stage, planned within the next 20 minutes.
Telemetry from the James Webb Space Telescope has successfully been received at the Jupiter Control Center at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
A little more than two minutes after launch, the two solid rocket boosters on the Ariane 5 separated from the vehicle and then fell back into the ocean. Next, the fairing — which was modified with additional venting ports to allow for smooth depressurization of the fairing from ground pressure to vacuum during the flight—was jettisoned, exposing Webb to space for the first time. The S-Band Transmitter has now been powered on and is confirmed as transmitting telemetry.
The boosters have ignited, and we have liftoff! The Ariane 5 launcher carrying NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched into space at 7:20 am EST from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.