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James Webb Space Telescope ready for its wings, on track for 2018 launch


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What's a spacecraft need wings for? Packaging, of course. The James Webb Space telescope relies on a 21 foot diameter backplane mirror to steady it, but the assembly needs to fit inside of a 16.5 foot fairing to ride the rocket to the stars. A tight fit, to say the least. Fortunately, NASA technicians have just finished the mirror backplate support structure, a folding wing assembly designed with to safely collapse the beryllium mirror during flight, and expand it again in orbit. "This is another milestone that helps move Webb closer to its launch date in 2018," remarked Geoff Yoder, the program's director. Now that the wing assembly is finished, the team can focus on the support fixture for the instrument model, which will complete major construction and allow technicians to connect the finished pieces. We'll miss old Hubble, sure, but we're happy to see its successor pulling things together all the same.

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