Webb telescope unboxed after shipment to Guyana Space Center – Astronomy Now



The James Webb Space Telescope is seen inside the S5C payload processing facility on October 15 at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn

Engineers removed the James Webb Space Telescope from its intercontinental shipping container in South America last week and launched a final comprehensive test of electrical systems on Monday before an Ariane 5 rocket takes off, the program manager said. from NASA.

The observatory arrived on October 12 at the Guyanese Space Center, a spaceport managed by the French space agency CNES and the European Space Agency, after a 16-day boat trip from Southern California, where Northrop Grumman assembled and tested Webb.

The $ 10 billion mission, in preparation for more than two decades, is scheduled to launch on December 18 on a European Ariane 5 rocket. The launch window opens at 1220 GMT.

The launch on an Ariane 5 rocket is one of the major contributions to the mission of ESA, which has also supported the development of several of Webb’s scientific instruments. The observatory is designed to look over 13 billion years in time to see the Universe as it was after the Big Bang, the incredibly violent event that created the cosmos.

Teams unpack the James Webb Space Telescope at the Guyana Space Center on October 14. Credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / P. Piron

Webb will also observe the nuclei of distant galaxies, study how stars form and evolve, and examine planets around other stars, revealing new information about their atmospheres, as if they could harbor the building blocks of life.

Since arriving last week in French Guiana, Webb has been trucked to the S5C payload processing facility and removed from its bespoke transporter, and ground crews have started testing the observatory for s ensure he is still in good health after the ocean trip from California.

“It got out of its shipping container, it went vertical and we relaunched our last major systems test today,” Gregory Robinson, director of the Webb program at NASA, said in a public meeting on Monday. . “It will last a little over a week. We’ll do the final fencing, move and refuel in a few weeks, then dock it to the rocket and wrap it in the fairing and take it off on December 18th.

Eric Smith, NASA’s program scientist for Webb, said there were about 11 days of slack in the schedule.

A member of the processing team watches the James Webb Space Telescope exit its shipping container. Credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / P. Piron

The combined systems test that began on Monday verifies that the observatory’s electrical systems are functional.

“There won’t be any more deployments for the observatory until it’s actually in space,” Smith said last week. “So they do all the electrical tests, do some communication checks, go through a final closure of the observatory with a few last pieces of multi-layered insulation that they put in place (on the spacecraft).”

The observatory will be launched with its main mirror, made up of 18 individual segments covered in gold, folded in origami-like fashion to fit inside the Ariane 5 rocket, which has one of the largest payload compartments of all operational launchers. The spacecraft is approximately 10.7 meters (35 feet) tall in its launch configuration.

Webb’s solar panel, secondary mirror, and thermal sunshade are also stowed away for launch. All the elements will deploy one by one after takeoff in a complex and very complex deployment sequence, different from that attempted by a previous space mission.

The telescope’s mirror, 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter when deployed, is the largest ever flown in space.

A worker inside the S5C processing facility inspects the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / P. Piron

The Ariane 5 rocket will send Webb toward Lagrange’s L2 point, a gravitationally stable position nearly one million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from the night side of Earth.

Webb is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been orbiting the Earth since 1990, but will see the Universe in different wavelengths, primarily in the infrared. Hubble’s scientific instruments are tuned for astronomical observations in the ultraviolet and visible bands, with some capability in the near infrared.

Webb’s development faced inflated costs and scheduled delays. He survived several close calls with cancellation.

In order to detect low heat from distant cosmic sources, Webb will deploy a tennis court-sized five-layer sunshade approximately six days after launch. The telescope’s instruments will be cooled over several months, but a payload contains detectors that must be cryogenized to minus 266 degrees Celsius (minus 448 degrees Fahrenheit).

After a series of calibration steps, NASA plans to release the first images of Webb about six months after launch.

More photos of Webb inside the S5C payload processing facility are posted below.

The James Webb Space Telescope is rotated vertically on October 15 inside the S5C payload processing facility at the Guyana Space Center. Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn
The James Webb Space Telescope inside the S5C payload processing facility. Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn
Three of JWST’s 18 hexagonal primary mirror segments. Credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / P. Piron
Credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / P. Piron
Credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / P. Piron
Credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / P. Piron

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.


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