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James Webb Space Telescope sunshield tensioning begins today

The next phase in the marathon is to separate the sunshield's five membranes, a process NASA refers to as tensioning, which will take two days.
A graphic depicts the James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield unfurled. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA took a one-day break in the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope after successfully extending booms for the spacecraft’s sunshield.

NASA stated on January 1 that it will wait a day before tensioning the five-layer sunshield, putting it into its final form, and ensuring the layers are isolated from one another. The project, which is now set to resume on January 2, will take two days to complete.

The pause comes after a long day on December 31, which the team spent deploying the two mid-booms that support the width of the observatory’s kite-shaped sunshield.

“Webb mission management decided this morning to pause deployment activities for today and allow the team to rest and prepare to begin Webb’s sunshield tensioning,” NASA said in a statement.

The tensioning is the final step in completing sunshield deployment, after which controllers will turn their attention to setting up the telescope mirrors. A one-day slip, though, will have a little long-term impact on the mission, which will spend six months completing the commissioning of the telescope and its instruments.