NASA adjusts James Webb’s orbit to protect against meteorites

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has begun the process of adjusting its orbit to avoid being bombarded by micrometeorites. It was a forced step, because the damage to one of the 18 hexagonal mirrors from the impact of a cosmic body turned out to be stronger than the engineers expected.

Illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope

“We have recorded 14 micrometeoroid hits on the main mirror since the start of the telescope. On average, such collisions occurred 1-2 per month, which was within expectations. But one collision left a much bigger dent than we expected when designing,” said Mike Menzel, lead systems engineer for the James Webb mission. 

Fortunately, despite the noticeable dent in the C3 mirror segment, optical performance still remains twice as good as expected.

Now the working group of experts has decided that future observations will be carried out from a different angle after adjusting the orbit. The telescope will be turned in the other direction from the micrometeorite avoidance zone. Of course, this will not protect the mirror from collisions with stones, but they will not hit so hard. 

Turned in the other direction, James Webb will be able to observe the same targets, but may have to wait until it reaches another point in its orbit. Engineers hope that the new orbit and position in space will preserve excellent optical characteristics for decades.

Earlier we reported on how NASA refused to rename the James Webb Telescope.

According to NASA 

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