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Deployment of Webb’s critical sunshield has begun

The deployment of the complex sunshield for the James Webb Space Telescope has successfully begun, and if all continues as planned, will continue for the next five days.

Early this afternoon the Webb mission operations team concluded the deployment of the first of two structures that hold within them Webb’s most unpredictable and in many ways complicated component: the sunshield.

The structures – called the Forward and Aft Unitized Pallet Structures – contain the five carefully folded sunshield membranes, plus the cables, pulleys, and release mechanisms that make up Webb’s sunshield. The team completed the deployment of the forward pallet at approximately 1:21 p.m. EST, after beginning the entire process about four hours earlier. The team will now move on to the aft pallet deployment.

Over the next five days the aft pallet must be deployed, along with a tower assembly that will raise the telescope itself away from the sunshield to better keep Webb cold. After this the deployment of the many additional parts of the shield will take place, a process that is probably the most complex in-space spacecraft deployment ever.

It is good news that so far all is proceeding as planned, and gives hope that all will continue to do so.


Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Localfluff

    It’s good they are pushing the envelope. The next time it will be easier because they will have learned. We won’t develop space by launching more Hubble tubes. I just wish that development had been done more according to plan, and not getting out of schedule and budget like this. But now it is happening! And it will be worth it. Perhaps I am too careful a general. Sometimes one has to go all in to win win win.

  • Questioner

    This Is What Comes After James Webb: LUVOIR Mission = Webb on steroids

    LUVOIR: James Webb Telescope’s Successor – Next Gen Space Observatory
    Estimated cost: 15 – 24 Billion USD

    “The Large Ultraviolet Optical Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR) is a concept for a highly capable, multi-wavelength space observatory with ambitious science goals. This mission would enable great leaps forward in a broad range of science, from the epoch of reionization, through galaxy formation and evolution, star and planet formation, to solar system remote sensing. LUVOIR also has the major goal of characterizing a wide range of exoplanets, including those that might be habitable – or even inhabited.”

  • Lee Stevenson

    I gotta be honest… I’m loving the JWSTs mission…. Let’s get those early pics is the universe, and pics of everything that can see thru dust, all that stuff that Bob, ( to be fair… You have never pushed for..) the James web will see in the infra spectrum., Back much father than Hubble ever did… I wanna see the James Webb deep field view… Point it at a point in space for a week or 2 (or even better a month or 2) and let’s see what we see
    The very birth of our universe… Perhaps so many pretty pictures, but the years, not millennia after the big bang…

  • Jeff Wright

    Some things you can’t be stingy on-colliders, LVs and light buckets-it’s exceptionalism.

  • sippin_bourbon

    “The next time it will be easier because they will have learned. We won’t develop space by launching more Hubble tubes. ”

    Telescopes will not be part of the commercial development of space, however they will be necessary. Even visual spectrum observatories, in addition to the IR, Xray, UV, etc. observatories recently launched or in the works.

    That is because we are reaching the limits of terrestrial astronomy. Space based astronomy is the future. There won’t be a lot of money in it, but there will be a lot of science.

  • Mitch S.

    There is a difference between “pushing the limit ” and putting all your eggs in one basket.
    I really hope that the lesson learned isn’t a hard learned lesson not to build a highly complex major investment with multiple single points of failure that’s located where it can’t be repaired.
    The Hubble tube pushed the tech of it’s time and required multiple repairs. Fortunately those repairs were possible.

    I hope JWST is a “win, win win”. But just because the chamber was empty when you pulled the trigger doesn’t mean you can keep pulling without a disaster (the kind of thinking that created the Challenger disaster) .
    LUVOIR, 15 – 24 billion x NASA project factor = 30 – 60 Billion. (probably not including the 2 billion for the SLS launch).
    Hmm, SLS can launch a big payload for 1-2 billion, Starship/SH can launch it for 100-200 million.
    Maybe private space can develop a LUVOIR for 3-6 billion…

  • Jeff Wright

    Parabolic Arc says Ariane 5’s precision has left it fuel fat for longer life-an allowed the early solar deployment we saw.

    TJSW-9 was launched in what Nasaspaceflight calls China’s 55th orbital flight this year.

  • Localfluff

    LUVOIR is kind of similar style in terms of deployment, isn’t it? It will work perfectly with JWST as the pioneer of that concept. Hubble was designed for the Space Shuttle cargo bay (and with military spy satellites as precursors). Now it has been shown that it can be done this way too, and I bet that it will be repeated. Just look at the crazy Space Crane landing rovers on Mars. Twice. It works because they know what they are doing.

    As to strings and pulleys, they have served us well. Made us discover the Americas. Btw, why was it called WEST India? If they thought they had reached India, they must’ve understood that they had reached it from the East. So it should have been called the east East India, no??

    Anyway, they found something, with strings and pulleys on their ships. Having dabbled a little bit in software, I very much more trust the pulling of a string instead for reliability. Because unless it snaps, the thingy on the other end will move, guaranteed. That’s not always so with software. The mechanicalization of JWST’s sunshield makes me confident during this Happy New Year!

  • Localfluff

    @Mitch S.
    The only thing that will be “launched” on SLS is a block of concrete. And it will fall down on its crawler after the whole charade detonates on the launch pad. I think that the crater it makes should be left as is, to commemorate the greatest fraud in NASA space flight history.

  • Localfluff

    Some astronomers wish that JWST wasn’t as potent it is. What are they putting up there?
    Saturn is too bright to be observed. (I know it as a yellowish dot in the sky, at best.)
    “The VERY LARGE infrared brightnesses of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn may limit Webb observations of these planets to a subset of the instrument modes.”
    Point 10.

  • Alex Andrite

    Tense time for the design teams.

  • sippin_bourbon

    The instruments are designed to look into the Deep Field. Something as close and hot as planets here in the Solar System would overwhelm it.

    To me that is an opportunity for a scaled down observatory that can help answer some of the questions closer to home.

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