Still cruising toward its operating orbit nearly a million miles from Earth, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope completed a transformation into its final dimension Saturday with the last of some 50 post-launch deployments, the unfolding of the observatory’s 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. Many engineers considered it the most complicated series of spacecraft deployments ever attempted.
SpaceX’s first launch of 2022 took off Thursday afternoon, when a Falcon 9 rocket carried 49 more Starlink internet satellites into orbit. Launch from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center occurred at 4:49 p.m. EST (2149 GMT), and the Falcon 9 tracked southeast from Florida’s Space Coast just north of the Bahamas, rather than the more typical northeasterly route to orbit.
Mission controllers started the delicate work of tightening the five razor-thin layers of the James Webb Space Telescope’s sunshade Monday. Managers said the nearly $10 billion observatory is “hunky-dory” after pausing deployments over the weekend to adjust the observatory’s power levels and ensure motors needed for the tensioning are in tip-top shape.
SpaceX plans to kick off its 2022 launch schedule with a Falcon 9 rocket flight Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with the company’s next group of Starlink internet satellites. In a change from previous Starlink missions, the Falcon 9 rocket will fly southeast from the coast of Florida on a course just north of the Bahamas to place the new batch of internet satellites into low Earth orbit a few hundred miles above Earth.