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James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch into space on December 22nd


After an incident with the ten billion dollar super telescope, NASA is postponing the launch into space. It is supposed to look for life on other planets.

Enlarge image

An engineer stands in front of the new space telescope

Photo: NASA / ZUMA Wire / IMAGO

It should start two days before Christmas.

Then the "James Webb" space telescope will begin its journey into space with a European Ariane rocket.

The project is considered to be one of the largest science projects of the decade.

Ten billion dollars went into the development of the telescope.

The start was postponed a few days to December 22nd after an incident caused unrest at the starting station in Kourou (French Guiana).

During the preparations, a clamping band came loose, causing the hypersensitive instrument to vibrate.

An investigation by the US space agency Nasa showed that nothing was damaged.

The space telescope succeeds the Hubble telescope and is a joint project of the European, US and Canadian space agencies.

The development had been delayed for many years and the costs continued to rise.

The telescope was shipped from California to Kourou in October under strict secrecy.

The main mirror of the telescope, made of hexagons and made of beryllium, is so large that it has to be folded for transport into space.

Otherwise "Webb" wouldn't fit in the missile.

In space, the 6.5-meter mirror must then be folded out.

In addition to the deployment of the solar panels and the tennis court-sized, five-layer sun protection, it is probably the most difficult maneuver so that the observatory can start its service as planned.

While "Hubble" is stationed 550 kilometers from the earth, "Webb" is supposed to do its service one and a half million kilometers away.

So it has to work straight away, because unlike the Hubble telescope, astronauts cannot even fly over there for repairs.

Compared to "Hubble", the new telescope is about a hundred times more powerful.

The great tremor before the start

The $ 10 billion instrument is designed to help resolve some of humanity's greatest questions.

When and how did the first stars and galaxies form?

Is the earth unique?

Or is there life on other planets too?

For example, »Webb« can capture the light of stars that were formed more than 13 billion years ago.

The observatory should be able to see through cosmic clouds of dust.

After the start of the journey, the telescope is expected to reach its target orbit in about a month.

Then the instruments are first tested in space.

But first of all, the start has to be successful.

Last year, there were potentially problematic situations when the Ariane rocket was launched.

Strong vibrations had been measured on the payload fairing of the Ariane.

The missions could still be brought to a successful conclusion - but in the case of "Webb" it was to be feared that the telescope could be damaged by shaking the telescope too much.

So the fairing was modified.

Only when everything goes smoothly is the path really clear for the super telescope.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-11-26

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