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Fully deployed, the telescope’s sunshield measures almost 70 feet by 47 feet (21 meters by 14 meters). When stowed inside the rocket for launch, the folded sunshield will be packaged in a very confined area in between other structures of the observatory to accommodate the limited space inside the 18-foot (5.4-meter) diameter rocket fairing.
“There is nothing really analogous to what we are trying to achieve with the folding up of a tennis court-sized sunshield, but it is similar to packing a parachute,” said Jeff Cheezum, a lead sunshield design engineer at Northrop Grumman. “Just like a skydiver needs their parachute packed correctly in order to open perfectly and to successfully get back to Earth, Webb needs its sunshield to be perfectly stowed to ensure that it also opens up perfectly and maintains its shape, in order to successfully keep the telescope at its required operating temperature.”
With the successful completion of sunshield folding, the engineering team has prepared the sunshield for its complex deployment in space. The sunshield will unfold at the end of the telescope’s first week in space after launch, stretching out to its full size and then separating and tensioning each of its five layers. Testing for this unfolding and tensioning procedure was completed for the final time on Earth in December 2020.
Let's hope the long wait is almost over.
originally posted by: gortex
Of course there's a long way to go and in the 6 months remaining any number of problems could set the launch back but as it's looking today that long long long wait could be nearly over.
The telescope will rely on a host of untried technologies, ranging from its sensitive light-detecting instrumentation to the cooling system that will keep the huge spacecraft below 50 kelvin. And it will have to operate perfectly on the first try, some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth — four times farther than the Moon and beyond the reach of any repair mission. If the JWST — named after the administrator who guided NASA through the development of the Apollo missions — fails, the progress of astronomy could be set back by a generation.
other proposed observatories, most of which have already been canceled or put on hold, including Terrestrial Planet Finder (2011), Space Interferometry Mission (2010), International X-ray Observatory (2011), MAXIM (Microarcsecond X-ray Imaging Mission), SAFIR (Single Aperture Far-Infrared Observatory), SUVO (Space Ultraviolet-Visible Observatory), and the SPECS (Submillimeter Probe of the Evolution of Cosmic Structure)