Watch: NASA Webb telescope deploys solar array

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Webb Space Telescope on Christmas Day. Thirty minutes later Webb’s fold-out solar array deployed and activated.

The Webb Space Telescope.
Image: NASA

The world’s most powerful telescope, set to study phenomena like the formation of planets, and the age and extent of the universe, uses less power than one might think. In fact, only one kilowatt, equivalent to the power use of microwaving your lunch, is needed to power the device.

Webb will stay energy-efficient more than 1 million miles from Earth, said NASA.

The 20-foot solar array is attached to the main observatory of the craft. It will act as the ‘powerhouse’ for the telescope, supplying energy to all its scientific instruments, communications, and propulsion systems. Though the telescope only needs 1 kW to perform, the array generates twice that much to factor in the degradation caused by the harsh conditions of space.

The array consists of five panels that are connected by hinges for folding into the launch vehicle, the Ariane 5 rocket. The telescope’s onboard battery was designed to only last a few hours, so the unfolding and activation of the array was considered one of the most critical early steps of the telescope’s voyage.

This post was updated to change the featured video to a capture of the live deployment rather than a model demonstration.

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