Canada Playing Major Role In Deploying The Most Powerful Space Telescope Ever Built

The James Webb Space Telescope getting its final evaluation before launch. Picture: Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

OTTAWA: After the successful completion of final tests in August, the James Webb Space Telescope is now being prepared for shipment to its launch site.

This major milestone, carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Webb launch service provider Arianespace, confirms that the Ariane 5 rocket, the Webb spacecraft and the flight plan are set for launch.

It also specifically provides the final confirmation that all aspects of the launch vehicle and spacecraft are fully compatible.

The premier observatory – an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency – will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on December 18, 2021.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. Canada has contributed its NIRISS scientific instrument and a fine guidance sensor.

Canadian scientists are playing an active part in its exciting science mission that promises to change our understanding of the universe. Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian NIRISS instrument (Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) will enable scientists to determine the composition of exoplanets’ atmospheres, observe distant galaxies, and examine objects that are very close together. Using a camera sensitive to infrared wavelengths, NIRISS will capture the infrared light emitted by objects and gather information about the spectra of distant planets.

In exchange, Canada will receive a guaranteed share of Webb’s observation time, making Canadian scientists some of the first to study data collected by the most advanced space telescope ever built.

Pic: Rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: ESA/D. Ducros

The Canadian-made FGS will allow Webb to: determine its position; locate its celestial targets; track moving targets; and remain steadily locked or pointed, with very high precision, on a specific celestial target The Ariane rocket will deliver the telescope directly into a precision transfer orbit towards its destination, the second Lagrange point, L2.

After separation, Webb will continue its four-week long journey to L2, four times farther away than the Moon, 1.5 million km from Earth. During launch, the spacecraft experience a range of mechanical forces, vibrations, temperature changes, and electromagnetic radiation.

All technical evaluations performed by Arianespace on the mission’s key aspects, including the launch trajectory and payload separation, have shown positive results. Report: Canadian Space Agency.

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