Northrop Grumman engineers monitor a test of the mechanism that will be used to slightly separate the James Webb Space Telescope’s mirrors and instruments from the heat generated by the spacecraft’s electronics and propulsion systems after the observatory reaches orbit. Image: Northrop Grumman
After weeks of downtime in the wake of the coronavirus, engineers have resumed near-normal work readying the James Webb Space Telescope for launch. Most recently, the deployable tower assembly, a telescoping structure will be used to separate JWST’s mirrors and instruments from hotter sections of the spacecraft, was extended in a key test at Northrop Grumman’s California manufacturing facility.
NASA managers are assessing the impact of the COVID-19 work stoppage on JWST’s eventual launch date. While officially scheduled for liftoff from Kourou, French Guiana, atop an Ariane 5 rocket, in March, the launch is expected to slip. The question is, by how much?
“The NASA/Northrop Grumman team recently resumed near-full operations,” the U.S. space agency said in a blog post. “NASA is evaluating potential impacts on the March 2021 launch date, and will continually assess the schedule and adjust decisions as the situation unfolds.”
The deployable tower assembly, or DTA, is a critical component that will enable ...