James Webb telescope clears functional tests, inches closer to planned 31 Oct launch

The final functional performance tests of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), due to launch on 31 October 2021, have been completed. In a blog post published on 1 March, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) informed that two comprehensive systems tests have been completed by the testing teams at Northrop Grumman. The internal electronics and communication links on the spacecraft and its four scientific instruments was also tested successfully, as per the post.

NASA also collaborated with the Baltimore Space Telescope Science Institute to carry out the ground segment test. Once the technicians completed the comprehensive tests, preparations for the ground test were also begun.

 James Webb telescope clears functional tests, inches closer to planned 31 Oct launch

The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield and ‘unitized pallet structures’ (which fold up around the telescope for launch) are seen partially deployed to an open configuration for telescope installation. Image: NASA/Chris Gunn

The James Webb Space Telescope is being manufactured in collaboration between European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA. It is an infrared telescope with a primary mirror of 6.5 metre. The process of developing the Webb Telescope was supervised by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Northrop Grumman, where the functional tests have been conducted, is the industry partner on the telescope project. The operation of the James Webb will be done by the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The telescope is a successor of NASA’s Hubble Telescope and is going to complement and extend its discoveries.

The JWST is slated for launch from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket on 31 October 2021. The telescope will be the premier observatory of the coming decade.