FP TrendingAug 31, 2021 15:33:18 IST
After completing its final testing, the James Webb Space Telescope is being prepared for transportation to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch is slated to take place on 31 October this year.
NASA stated that since there is no more large-scale testing that needs to be conducted, Webb’s cleanroom technicians will work towards ensuring its reaches its launch pad safely. This is a drastic shift from their previous focus — demonstrating Webb can survive the harsh conditions of launch and work in orbit.
The space observatory will travel through the Panama Canal to French Guiana which is on the northeastern coast of South America. It will then have a ‘dress rehearsal’ before it rolls out to the launch pad two days before launch. The telescope will be launched into space aboard the Ariana 5, one of the most reliable launch vehicles presently available.
The telescope is a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NA
ESA states that Webb is a ‘Flagship’ mission which is a generational project. It was built on the legacy and the lessons that scientists learnt from its predecessors like Hubble.
As the Webb telescope is being transported, the machine’s Mission Operations Center (MOC) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) will continue testing its complex communication network. The telescope will undergo further prelaunch testing.
After a 26-minute ride aboard the launch vehicle, the Webb spacecraft will detach from it and automatically deploy its solar array. Webb will have an ‘action-packed six months’ commissioning period. According to Space.com, at 13.2 meters long and 4.2 m wide, the telescope is about the size of a large tractor-trailer truck. It is fitted with intricate sun shades that could cover a tennis court once unfolded. It will deploy its sun shields a few days after its launch with the instruments and telescope starting to cool down. The craft will take approximately one month to reach its destination.
The telescope will observe the universe from the vantage point of Lagrangian Point 2 (L2), located some 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth. The L2 point is one of the five points around the Earth and Sun, where the gravitational forces of both celestial bodies are in balance. This will enable the spacecraft to maintain a stable position with respect to Earth.
Bill Ochs, Webb project manager for NASA Goddard, remarked that he couldn’t help but see “the reflections of the thousands of individuals who have dedicated so much of their lives to Webb, every time I look at that beautiful gold mirror.”