The next step in our space exploration will take place in Kourou, French Guiana for exactly one year today.
On October 31, 2021 – a Sunday – NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will launch the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or “Webb”).
There are missile launches every week. Why are people excited about another one?
This will be different – it expensive and it extend.
Rated 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb will depart from the European Space Port’s ELA-3 launch complex atop the Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket.
It will be stuffed with an origami-like structure that will fold once in space, but it’s also filled with the hopes and dreams of space fans, stargazers, and celestial beings. amateurs and scientists.
What is Webb?
It’s a $ 8.8 billion space telescope – NASA’s next great space science observatory – and a successor, in many ways, to Hubble. It is about the size of a tennis court. It is the world’s largest, most complex, and most complex space science telescope ever built. It is named after James E. Webb, NASA’s administrator for several periods of Apollo.
What will Webb do?
Once in place, its five-layer sunshade opens to reveal a 6.5-meter main mirror that can detect the faint light of stars and galaxies. In its 10-year mission, Webb will:
- Solar System study.
- Alien photography.
- reveal galaxies that have never been seen by humanity before – the first galaxies.
- uncover the mysteries of the origin of the Universe.
Where will Webb go?
After leaving the European Spaceport northwest of Kourou in French Guiana, South America, Webb will travel 1 million miles / 1.5 million km within 30 days of reaching the second Lagrange point, or is L2.
At this very special place in space, Webb would be able to stay aligned with the Earth as it moved around the Sun.
Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope that orbits the Earth so it can only be observed when it is on the night side of the planet, Webb will have a sunshade to deflect the Sun’s light and heat and have can be observed continuously.
Being present at L2 also gives Earth direct visibility to Webb at all times so that NASA can send instructions and receive data at any time through its Deep Space Network antenna.
Has Webb been delayed?
It’s correct. The most recent cancellation occurred in the summer when the impact of COVID-19 on working hours began to be felt in its test room at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. That has set an expected launch date between March 31, 2021 and October 31, 2021.
However, Webb is now fully built, assembled and integrated, and it has just passed the rigorous pre-launch testing. That’s all the system goes!
Can Webb be repaired?
Never. That is what makes it such a risky quest. The Hubble Space Telescope was famously launched in 1990 with a faulty main mirror and had to be visited by NASA astronauts in 1993 in a Space Shuttle (who actually visited a total of 5 times to install upgrades). That won’t happen with Webb. Once launched, it should work automatically.
There are other challenges. Webb is delicate. Launch is synonymous with vibration and although it is all simulated and tested, Webb has 18 main mirror segments that must open up and form a single perfect plane. Its five layers of sunshades must also be intact.
So many, so much may wrong – but nothing may wrong with Webb. Launching and traveling into its space to be calibrated would be more difficult.
What’s next for Webb?
In early 2021, Webb will be folded in “origami style” for transport to the launch site and mounted inside the hood of the Ariane 5 launcher.
Wishing you a clear sky and wide eyes.