With a long set of rigorous tests behind it, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), NASA’s next major space telescope, is ready to be launched into orbit. Though, while the telescope is qualified to begin its mission, it still needs to be prepared for shipment and transferred to its launch location of Kourou, French Guiana. There, the telescope will be reviewed again and prepped for launch, ensuring nothing broke during transport and making final touches such as removing critical “‘remove before flight’ red-tag items like protective covers…” Once the space observatory is given its final green light, site engineers will pair it with a European Space Agency (ESA) Ariane 5 rocket, the JWST’s ticket to the cosmos.
The journey of this new telescope to the near edge of space is an international project “led by NASA with its partners, ESA… and the Canadian Space Agency.”
Space telescopes are often beacons of scientific research. One of the most well-known orbiting observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope, has been observing the universe for over three decades, contributing invaluably to disciplines from physics to astronomy. Hubble has remained operational much longer than originally intended, largely due to repair missions and its plethora of backup equipment. With the JWST benefitting from decades-newer technology, a similar long lifespan of research can be gleefully expected.
After a 26-minute rocket ride up to space, Webb will spend a month moving to its stable orbital location and severalbefore more initializing, aligning, and calibrating processes take place. Around six months after launch (and barring any major hiccups), the James Webb Space Telescope will be ready to commence its observational endeavors.
In recent decades, Hubble has been an ambassador of space and science to the world, accelerating astronomical research and enrapturing the public with its stunning images. While Hubble will, fortunately, continue its cutting-edge work, Webb is poised to take on the mantle of a new generation, pushing forward space science and our world’s appreciation of space to a new, ever-higher realm.
Article Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Banner Image Source: NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham