January 21, 2023

webb space telescope image by NASA. A model of the James Webb Space Telescope in space shows the telescope fully unfolded. Credit: Adriana Manrique Gutierrez, NASA Animator

Between May 23 and 25, NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope sustained damage to one of its primary mirror segments.

A micrometeoroid strikes NASA‘s Webb Space Telescope. There are millions of small rock and metal particles called micrometeoroids in our solar system. In spite of their size and weight, these minuscule meteoroids pose a significant threat to spacecraft because they orbit the Earth at an average speed of 22,500 mph (10 kilometers per second).

The risk of micrometeoroids striking a spacecraft is unavoidable during its long, productive, and usually long-term missions. The primary mirror segment of NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope was damaged between May 23 and 25.

After initial assessments, the team determined that the telescope remains in excellent operating condition, exceeding all mission requirements with only a marginally detectable error in the data. Additional testing will be conducted. During the design and testing of Webb’s mirror on the ground, it was anticipated that impact would continue to occur throughout his lifetime in space. Even after a successful launch, deployment, and telescope alignment, Webb’s performance is impressive for its first few months of operation, and it is fully capable of performing the science it was expected to perform.

A micrometeoroid environment of dust-size particles flying at extreme velocities bombards Webb’s mirror at its orbit around Sun-Earth L2. While engineers were building the telescope, they used both simulations and actual impact tests to determine how they should strengthen it for operation in orbit. The team could not have predicted the impact of this most recent change, and could not test it on the ground.

“In addition to harsh ultraviolet light from the Sun, charged particles from distant stars, and occasional impacts from micrometeoroids in our solar system, we knew that the Webb spacecraft must withstand harsh conditions in space, said Paul Geithner, technical deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. As a result, Webb’s optical, thermal, electrical, and mechanical performance margins were designed to ensure it would maintain its science mission long after it had been launched into space.”

Due to the efforts of the launch site teams, Webb’s optics were kept cleaner than necessary while on the ground; the improved reflectivity and throughput are a result of the pristine clean. Webb’s science capabilities are remarkably resilient to potential degradation over time due to this and other performance margins.

Further, Webb’s ability to sense and adjust mirror positions makes partial corrections for impact damage possible. A portion of the distortion can be eliminated by adjusting the position of the affected segment. This limits the impact of any effect, anyhow not all the debasement can be all counterbalanced along these lines. Engineers have previously played out a first such change for the as of late impacted fragment C3, and extra arranged reflect changes will keep on fining tune this remedy. These means will be rehashed when required in light of future occasions as a feature of the observing and upkeep of the telescope all through the mission.

To safeguard Webb in circle, flight groups can utilize defensive moves that deliberately dismiss the optics from realized meteor showers before they are set to happen. This latest hit was not a consequence of a meteor shower and is right now thought to be an undeniable opportunity occasion. Because of this effect, a particular group of designers has been shaped to take a gander at ways of relieving the impacts of additional micrometeoroid hits of this scale. After some time, the group will gather priceless information and work with micrometeoroid expectation specialists at NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center to have the option to more readily foresee how execution might change, remembering that the telescope’s underlying exhibition is surprisingly good. Webb’s enormous size and responsiveness make it a profoundly delicate indicator of micrometeorites; over the long run Webb will assist with further developing information on the nearby planet group dust molecule climate at L2, for this and future missions.

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