With a shield about the length of a tennis court, the colossal James Webb Space Telescope — the next generation of space telescope due to launch in 2021 — wouldn’t fit on any rocket.
So NASA designed the space telescope to fold up. A 45-second video recently released by the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center shows how the telescope — intended to peer at distant galaxies, solar nurseries, and exotic exoplanets — will fit onto an Ariane V rocket, which blasts heavy payloads into space.
On May 14, NASA announced that Webb had been folded up into its compact launch configuration, in preparation for more testing. After arriving in space, the telescope will incrementally unfurl.
“Once in space, the observatory will unfold and stretch itself out in a carefully practiced series of steps before beginning to make groundbreaking observations of the cosmos,” wrote NASA.
The large, gold-tinted hexagons are the space telescope’s mirrors, which in total have an over 21-foot diameter. The tennis court-sized sunshield, which folds over the mirrors, is designed to block out heat and light from the sun as the space telescope peers into the deep, deep cosmos.