The James Webb Space Telescope has a complicated deployment sequence. Beyond data from sensors aboard the spacecraft, does it have any cameras to take pictures of the process?


As of now, it does not and that's not likely to change. I asked this question of leaders of the JWST project at Goddard Space Flight Center. It isn't that it wouldn't be useful, the problem is funds and time. Considering the current cost of the project, any new addition would increase the cost and could impact the scheduled launch date of October 2018.

The camera would need to work in a vacuum. Is MLI (multi-layer insulation) sufficient to keep it's temperature in its operating range? How and where would you mount it? Would you need to supply artificial lighting? Where would you find the bandwidth to send the images back? Resolving these issues would require resources that are in extremely short supply now.

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    $\begingroup$ None of that is new technology. Shuttle and station all had/have external cameras. Agree that it's a "nice to have" though, not a mission requirement. Unless, of course, something goes wrong with the deployment. $\endgroup$ Oct 20 '16 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Sentinel-1's solar panel deployment camera was activated and brought on-line following an unexplained power anomaly and discovered this little beauty! But for JWST with all those moving parts, not sure where a camera could actually be put and additional cabling could be added without a risk/benefit engineering review. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 24 '17 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ A camera especially with an additional light source migth also put the actual assignment of the JWST at risk as it requires to be extremely cold. So cold that it even has its own heat shield as it will look deep into the infrared range. Any additional equipment would need to be thorougly checked to not compromise the primary mission. $\endgroup$
    – Adwaenyth
    Jan 24 '17 at 8:20

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