James Webb Space Telescope passes final overhaul

While NASA engineers are busy looking for a solution for the hardware problem detected in the payload computer of the space telescope Hubble, ESA announces that the successor James Webb has passed the final review. If there are no further delays, the launch of the new telescope will take place on October 31st.

James Webb Space Telescope ready to launch

Webb it will be the largest telescope ever launched into space. The diameter of the main mirror is in fact of 6.5 meters (Hubble’s is 2.4 meters). Due to its size (when closed it is 4.5 meters wide), Arianespace had to modify the Ariane 5 rocket which will be used for launch from the European spaceport in French Guiana. ESA (European Space Agency) has communicated to partners (NASA and CSA) what rocket and telescope they are fully compatible.

During launch, Webb experiences a variety of mechanical forces, vibrations, temperature changes and electromagnetic radiation. All technical assessments performed by Arianespace on key aspects of the mission, including launch trajectory and payload separation, showed positive results.

Hubble is located at about 540 km of altitude. Webb will instead have to reach the second Lagrange point (L2) at a distance of 1.5 million Km from the earth. After separation from the Ariane 5 rocket, the telescope will continue its journey for another four weeks. The activation of the on-board instruments and therefore the start of the scientific observations will take place approximately 6 months after the launch.

Webb is expected to have an operating life of 10 years (Hubble has been in space for over 31 years). For obvious reasons, the telescope cannot be repaired. Hubble instead underwent five “interventions” between 1993 and 2009, the last of which was replaced by the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH), source of the current hardware problem.

 

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