Spaceflight Insider

James Webb Space Telescope to unlock wonders of the Universe.

JWST outside Chamber-A NASA's JSC

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope sits folded up in the cleanroom outside of Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Photo & Caption Credit: Desiree Stover / NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope will work to further uncover the mysteries of the Universe after it launches in 2021 from the Guiana Space Center aboard an Ariane 5 rocket

The James Webb telescope is an orbiting infrared observatory meant to build-on the Hubble Telescopes observations and discoveries. The Webb has capabilities to look back over 13.5 billion years and will be able to get a closer look at the first stars and galaxies and fundamentally change the way we see our universe. Webb will be the most powerful, elaborate and unparalleled space telescope when it launches in 2021. 

Webb is set to launch from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex, a European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This spaceport is advantageous for launches;  it’s near the equator where the spin of the earth is moving at 1670 km/hr.

In 2019, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope integrated the mechanics and electrical assembly of the powerful space science observator. In other words, the Webb’s two halves were physically put together, wiring harnesses and electrical interfaces connected. After the assembly, the Space telescope team moved on to successful deployment and tensioning commands for all five layers of its sunshield, designed to protect the telescope’s mirrors and scientific equipment primarily from the Sun.

The Webb telescope’s prime objective is to look at the Universe in the infrared, in contrast to the way Hubble investigates and discovers, it primarily uses optical and ultraviolet wavelengths with some infrared capacity. Webb’s mirror is larger than the Hubble’s which is 2.4 meters, (7ft, 10.5”) across, compared to 6.5 meters (21’ 4”) across for the all-powerful telescope.  A mirror this large has never been in space. The larger light collection area is also what will allow the Webb to look farther back into time than the Hubble is capable of. The Hubble is in lower earth orbit, approximately 540 kilometers (340 miles) and an inclination of 28.5 while Webb will be 1.5 million kilometers (km) away at the second Lagrange, L2, point.

The James Webb Space Telescope will also be used to study the atmospheres of exoplanets and the building blocks of life elsewhere in our universe. Webb will use the transit method during these examinations. This method measures the light curve of a star for periodic dimming in the passageway between a star and earth. There are also.  plans for collaborating with ground-based telescopes that will help measure the mass of the planets, using the radial velocity technique, i.e., measuring the stellar wobble produced by the gravitational tug of a planet, and then Webb will do spectroscopy of the planet’s atmosphere. The Webb is designed to be able to see the first stars and galaxies forming after the Big Bang.  With the telescopes abilities, those in the scientific community will be able to witness stars and planetary systems forming inside clouds of dust that are opaque to visible light.

Stars and planets are born in our local universe taking place in the centers of opaque, dusty clouds, obscuring that process from our eyes at normal visible wavelength. However, by studying the emitted near-infrared light with the help of the James Webb, astronomers can peer through the dust and see the development of star and planet formation. The Webb may also tell us whether some Earth-like planets may have enough water to have oceans and how many of those planetary systems may be able to support life.

Our universe is ever expanding. The farther we look, the faster objects are continually moving away from us, red-shifting the light. In order to study the earliest star and galaxy formations, we need instruments and a telescope optimized for this light. That is exactly what the James Webb telescope is built to do and to help us better understand and challenge the way we have looked at the universe up to this point.

In a statement released on March 20, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said NASA had completed an assessment of work across the agency, deciding which projects are essential enough to require people to go to NASA centers or other facilities to work on them and has suspended work on the Jame Webb Space Telescope. 

We will continue to follow this story and update as information becomes available


Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It’s only natural that she would develop a passion for anything “Space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in mankind, nature, and machines. Hailing from a family of photographers—including her father and her son, Theresa herself started documenting her world through pictures at a very early age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what appeals to her heart and her love of technology to deliver a diversified approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics, and industrial utility.

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