NASA to Launch James Webb Telescope in December; see what comes next – 09/08/2021

NASA, the US space agency, said in a statement on Wednesday (8) that the latest-generation James telescope Webb, the world’s most complex space science observatory, has a new date to be sent into space: December 18 of this year. Its launch has already gone through postponements. Until then, it would take place on October 31st.

According to NASA, the new date was set after the telescope and the rocket that will send it into space have passed the final tests. And you can’t be too careful: at 13.2 meters long and 4.2 meters wide, the US agency’s new space eye is the size of a truck and weighs 6.5 tons. When unfolded in space, your protective umbrella will be the size of a tennis court.

“Webb is an exemplary mission that stands for the epitome of perseverance,” said Gregory L. Robinson, director of Webb’s program at NASA headquarters in Washington, in the statement. “I’m inspired by our dedicated team and our global partnerships, which made this incredible endeavor possible. Together, we’ve overcome technical obstacles along our journey.”

The US space agency ensures that the James Webb is ready for shipment to its launch site.

James Webb Telescope is assembled and tested, and preparations for shipment will soon begin - NASA/Chris Gunn - NASA/Chris Gunn

James Webb Telescope is assembled and tested, and preparations for shipment will soon begin.

Image: NASA/Chris Gunn


Now, wrapped in a special protective cocoon, the space science observatory prepares to travel by ship through the Panama Canal towards the European spaceport from where it will be launched. The base is in Kourou, French Guiana — in a region bordering Amapá.

The upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket, which will take the telescope into space, has been on its way to the spaceport since 17 August. He left Bremen for the port of Neustadt in Germany.

When the telescope arrives at the launch base, the last settings for the flight will be made – including post-boarding checks to ensure the observatory has not been damaged during transport, among other tasks.

James Webb Telescope - NASA/Chris Gunn - NASA/Chris Gunn

James Webb Telescope

Image: NASA/Chris Gunn

The engineering teams will then dock the observatory to your launch vehicle. The last step will be a dress rehearsal, then proceed to the launch pad two days before the scheduled date.

Aboard the Ariane 5, the telescope will fly for 26 minutes, and after that, after detaching, it will fly to a point on Lagrange — an intended orbital location in space — at a distance of more than 1 million km from Earth, with their own engines, in a journey that should take about a month. Meanwhile, it slowly unfolds as it goes along.

Pre-launch routine

Once the sunscreen starts to open, the telescope and instruments will fall into shadow and begin to cool down over time. In the coming weeks, the mission team will closely monitor the observatory’s cooling, managing it with heaters to control voltages on instruments and structures.

Meanwhile, the tripod of the secondary mirror will unfold, the primary mirror will unfold, the instruments of webb will turn on slowly and booster shots will insert the observatory into a prescribed orbit.

Once the observatory has cooled down and stabilized, work will be needed to align its optics and calibrate its scientific instruments — which are expected to take a few months.

What and when will he start ‘working’?

The prediction of the first James Webb survey — which is an international mission by the space agencies of the US (NASA), Europe (ESA) and Canada (CSA), with a cost of $10 billion — is to start not earlier than six months after release.

The telescope's 18-segment mirror will capture infrared light from some of the first galaxies to form - NASA/Desiree Stover - NASA/Desiree Stover

The telescope’s 18-segment mirror will capture infrared light from some of the first galaxies to form.

Image: NASA/Desiree Stover

During this time he will “get used to” the new habitat. Thus, assuming that everything goes well with the launch and implementation, scientific operations will begin in 2022.

Conceived over 30 years ago and touted as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb will be the largest observatory ever placed in orbit.

Despite the constant comparison between the two telescopes, they see the universe differently: Hubble makes observations in visible and ultraviolet light, while Webb’s focus is on seeing things in the infrared.

This distinction opens up a whole dimension of astrophysics, planetary science and cosmology that has not yet been fully explored.

The expectation is that Webb will have the opportunity to probe distant worlds for signs of habitability and life, take a fresh look at cooler objects — such as older comets and galaxies — and be able to peer into billions of light years from distance to give us a glimpse of the universe in its infancy.