Science and Exploration

NASA’s Webb Telescope is Shaping Up

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
September 30, 2013
Filed under , , ,
NASA’s Webb Telescope is Shaping Up
NASA's Webb Telescope is shaping up.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s sunshield is shaping up and it’s the shape and unique design that viewers of a new video will find interesting. A five-layer sunshield helps keep the infrared instruments aboard the Webb telescope as cold as possible by blocking out heat and light.

The video produced at the Space Telescope Science Institute or STScI in Baltimore, Md., and hosted by Mary Estacion and takes the viewer to the Mantech facility in Huntsville, Alabama, to find out just how engineers on the ground are making sure that each layer of the sunshield is built correctly.

Mary interviewed Jason Matthew Back, the lead design engineer for the Sunshield at Mantech, who noted that when the sunshield is deployed it will be stretched out under tension, and viewers will notice that although it may appear flat from a distance, it’s actually curved like a funnel toward the center of the telescope.

The five layers of the sunshield are shaped differently from each other, and designed to get maximum heat rejection between each layer all the way up to Layer 5 on top. “That means that Layer 1 will always be the hottest facing the sun and Layer 5 will be the coldest, allowing the telescope to achieve optimal operating temperature,” Back said.

During the video, viewers will see why a laser scanner was used to measure the overall shape of the membrane or layer and build it correctly. Mantech actually does seven different scans in seven different locations. Each scan creates about 407 million points and engineers combine those seven scans together to get enough points to build a solid 3-D shape of the membrane to compare it to our analytical model.

To download the Behind the Webb’s “Webb Sunshield Shaping Up” video, visit:

For more information about NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, visit: or

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.