The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) developed the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to gain a comprehensive range of investigation across the field of cosmology and astronomy. It collaborated with Canadian Space Agency and European Space Agency, and the project has been ongoing since 1996.
The JWST, formerly known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), recently achieved another milestone after it was released from a three-month cooling down test. The telescope was placed in a chamber that had a temperature range of 20 to 40 K. Experts say it would allow them to see if the telescope could withstand the temperature in the outer space or not, and it did. The test was done inside a huge vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Center.
Scientists have built the JWST to have the ability to disclose and identify the details of the first light in the universe, expose infrared radiation, travel to gravitationally stable L2-Sun orbit, and also built a large surface area that can collect images with sharper resolutions.
The telescope can also be used for the future exploration of brown dwarfs, which scientists refer to as objects in the space that are too small to be stars and too big to be called planets.
Its existence has been a point of interest for scientists, even calling in a “mystery” in the outer space.
NASA’s four Great Observatories Program consists of massive telescopes that were launched in the outer space between 1990 and 2003, and JWST is positioned to become one of them. It was made to examine a particular energy region of the electromagnetic spectrum using various technologies.
The following space telescopes are part of the Great Observatories Program:
- Hubble Space Telescope
- Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory
- Spitzer Space Telescope
- Chandra X-ray Observatory
Reports have suggested that JWST is going to be the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. The massive telescope has gone through other testing like the following:
- The alignment of its 18 primary mirror segments in order to see if they would act as a single, 6.5-meter telescope.
- The assessment of JWST’s fine guidance system in order to check if it can detect the light and track the movement of the stars.
In spite of being successful with the temperature cooling test, the massive telescope still needs to go through two remaining assessments before the big launch, which will happen after the Spring of 2019.
One of the tests will happen in February. The JWST is expected to be transferred to Ellington Field in Houston. There, the massive telescope will fly aboard a C-5 aircraft, which will head to Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Los Angeles, California to test if the sunshield installed onto it will be deployed properly. The sunshield needs to survive the vibrations produced in the launch.
And the last assessment will take place in French Guiana where JWST is going to aboard an Ariane 5 rocket for its launching.
Just like all scientific tests, the JWST has also encountered obstacles along the way. There was a time when the launching had to be postponed because the installation of different space elements to the telescope took too much time and work.
Thomas Zurbuchen, the Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington said, that “The change in launch timing is not indicative of a hardware or technical malfunction. Engineers have determined that integration activities, such as the installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, will require more time.”
The problem has forced NASA and its partners to not just delay the launch date in 2018 but to also increase its budget from $1.6 billion to $10 billion .
For years, the James Webb Space Telescope has had its share of ups and downs. But because of the following successful results from the tests, everyone now has hopes that JWST will finally be deployed to the outer space in 2019. The launch is expected to create a bold impact to future research and discoveries.