Edinburgh, 29 December 2021. – The US $10B space observatory has flown beyond the orbit of the Moon after completing the second of the three required mid-course correction burns, NASA reported.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launched on Christmas Day to begin its 29-day deployment process. About half an hour later, it automatically deployed its solar panel to start generating its own power. Approximately 12 hours later, the first trajectory fine-tuning burn took place and lasted for 65 minutes. A day after launch, JWST automatically deployed its Gimbaled Antenna to ensure communication with ground control.
The second trajectory-refining burn took place 60 hours after liftoff and lasted just over 9 minutes. Meanwhile the spacecraft also passed the orbit of the Moon. The sunshield deployment phase began by deploying the Forward Sunshield Pallet and currently the Aft Sunshield Pallet is being deployed. The sunshield is expected to be fully expanded eight days after launch.
According to NASA, JWST has to complete 178 release mechanisms to deploy 50 parts altogether. The final maneuver will be a course-correction burn on day 29, to insert Webb into an optimum L2 orbit. L2 (Lagrange point 2) is a gravitationally stable location nearly 1.5M km from Earth towards Mars. NASA expects regular science operations to start six months after launch.