Exploring the distant Universe
Name The James Webb Space Telescope honours NASA's second administrator, James E. Webb, who headed the agency from February 1961 to October 1968. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was originally known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST).
Description The JWST is the successor to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and, with a six-metre mirror, it will be almost three times the size of Hubble. JWST has been designed to work best at infrared wavelengths. This will allow it to study the very distant Universe, looking for the first stars and galaxies that ever emerged.
Launch 2018 on an Ariane 5 from Europe's Spacecport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Status Under development.
Journey JWST is due to be launched in 2018 on an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from ESA’s spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana. After a transfer trajectory, the observatory will operate at approximately 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth, in an orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, L2.
Notes Scientists expect JWST to find out more about the origins of the Universe by observing infrared light from the first stars and galaxies.
JWST's wavelength range will be from about 0.6 to 28 microns (visible to the mid-infrared light), as compared to Hubble's 0.1-2.5 microns (ultraviolet to the near infrared). One micron, or micrometre, is one millionth of a metre.
JWST will have a primary mirror with a diameter of 6.5 metres - more than twice that of Hubble's - giving it much more light-gathering capability.
Packing a 6.5-metre telescope into a small rocket with a diameter of five metres has been described by JWST scientists as 'a bit like designing a ship in a bottle'.
JWST will carry four science instruments: the MIRI mid-infrared camera and spectrograph, the NIRSpec near-infrared spectrograph, the NIRCam near-infrared camera, and the FGS-NIRISS combined fine guidance sensor and near-infrared imager and slitless spectrograph.
JWST has to be extremely reliable, even though it is using new and innovative technology. Once in orbit, it will be too far away for astronauts to perform servicing missions.
Last update: 9 May 2012