Webb teams successfully installed the observatory’s secondary mirror support structure on Jan 5th. Light from the distant universe will reflect off Webb’s iconic 18 gold primary mirrors and hit the smaller, 2.4-foot (.74-meter) secondary mirror, which will direct the light into its instruments. The secondary mirror is supported by three lightweight deployable struts, each nearly 25 feet long and built to withstand the space environment. Warming up the joints and motors required for smooth operation required the use of specialised heating systems.
“Another banner day for JWST,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, as he congratulated the secondary mirror deployment team at the Mission Operations Center in Baltimore. “This is unbelievable…We’re about 600,000 miles from Earth, and we actually have a telescope.”
The deployment process began around 9:52 a.m. EST, and the secondary mirror moved into its extended position around 11:28 a.m. EST. At approximately 11:51 a.m. EST, the secondary mirror support structure was latched. Engineers confirmed that the structure was fully secured and locked into place at 12:23 p.m. EST, and that the deployment was complete.
“The world’s most sophisticated tripod has deployed,” said Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at Goddard. “That’s really the way one can think of it. Webb’s secondary mirror had to deploy in microgravity, and in extremely cold temperatures, and it ultimately had to work the first time without error. It also had to deploy, position, and lock itself into place to a tolerance of about one and a half millimeters, and then it has to stay extremely stable while the telescope points to different places in the sky – and that’s all for a secondary mirror support structure that is over 7 meters in length.”