The James Webb telescope completed its final major step of deployment on Saturday morning, when the last mirror wing of the telescope unfolded in space into its final configuration.
The telescope, which is an international partnership that also includes the European and Canadian space agencies, launched on Dec. 25 and is considered to be the most powerful telescope ever launched into space. While there were no cameras to capture the unfolding, NASA provided a virtual simulation of the process through a livestream.
At around 10:28 a.m. ET, the telescope reached the “end of deployment” and those at the mission operations control started applauding.
Two weeks after launch, @NASAWebb has hit its next biggest milestone: the mirrors have completed deployment and the next-generation telescope has taken its final form.
Next up for Webb? Five months of alignment and calibration before we start getting images: pic.twitter.com/BOj5O1HS37
— NASA (@NASA) January 8, 2022
The telescope has two mirrors and a sunshield that all had to be unfolded in space since it was launched, which had never been done before. The mirrors are so large they were folded like origami into the telescope. One of the mirrors and the sun shield deployed successfully earlier this week.
The full deployment of the telescope has been a meticulous two-week process, but it’s not done yet. After the wing unfolded, it goes through a latch-on process that takes several hours.
NASA says the next step after that involves five months of alignment and calibration before the telescope starts picking up images.