This article is a helpful resource for Deep Space Diary Activity 3.4: Pack Your Payload.
Engineers working on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have successfully folded and packed its sunshield for its upcoming million-mile (roughly 1.5 million kilometer) journey, which begins later this year.
The sunshield — a five-layer, diamond-shaped structure the size of a tennis court — was specially engineered to fold up around the two sides of the telescope and fit within the confines of its launch vehicle, the Ariane 5 rocket. Now that folding has been completed at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, the sunshield will remain in this compact form through launch and the first few days the observatory will spend in space.
Designed to protect the telescope’s optics from any heat sources that could interfere with its sight, the sunshield is one of Webb’s most critical and complex components. Because Webb is an infrared telescope, its mirrors and sensors need to be kept at extremely cold temperatures to detect faint heat signals from distant objects in the universe.