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posted by martyb on Thursday September 09, @12:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the better-nate-than-lever dept.

The James Webb telescope has a bona fide launch date:

The telescope is ready. So is the rocket. It's time.

NASA announced in August that the James Webb Space Telescope had passed its final ground-based tests and was being prepared for shipment to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. Now, the oft-delayed $10 billion telescope has an official launch date: December 18, 2021.

The date was announced on Wednesday by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the launch provider, Arianespace. The space telescope will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope launch delayed to December:

NASA's long-awaited and high-powered James Webb Space Telescope won't begin observations this year after NASA and its counterpart the European Space Agency (ESA) announced another launch delay.

[...] "We now know the day that thousands of people have been working towards for many years, and that millions around the world are looking forward to," Günther Hasinger, ESA's director of science, said in an agency statement. "Webb and its Ariane 5 launch vehicle are ready, thanks to the excellent work across all mission partners. We are looking forward to seeing the final preparations for launch at Europe's Spaceport."

[...] Once the James Webb Space Telescope launches, the spacecraft will spend about a month traveling the 930,000 miles (1.5 kilometers) out to its destination, the second Lagrange point (L2)[*]. Here, the observatory can enjoy a relatively stable "parking spot" orbit on the opposite side of Earth from the sun. The location is crucial for the telescope, which must remain well shielded from the heat that would interfere with the infrared capabilities on the observatory.

The telescope's instruments won't turn on until two or three months after launch, and typical science won't begin until about six months after launch, according to ESA.

[*] Wikipedia entry on Lagrange points and the specific entry on L2.

Hopefully all will go well with the launch and deployment.


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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by FatPhil on Thursday September 09, @01:50PM

    by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Thursday September 09, @01:50PM (#1176253) Homepage
    Once it's taken its 1 month journey to L2, and is fully unfolded, it'll spend its first month just with mechanical and system self tests. L+2M - L+3M will be fundamental sensor and optical (yea, yeah, IR) tests. L+4M - L+5M it'll start taking test images. The plan is that the first "mission" image will be taken at about L+6M. I'm not sure how date-sensitive the ERSs, GTOs, and GOs that are booked will be, so it might not be obvious yet which observation is run first, the order hasn't been announced publicly AFAIK, and cards are close to the chest still:
    “The first observing cycle with a new observatory is always special, especially one as powerful and highly anticipated as Webb. We had an incredibly interesting couple of weeks of intense proposal reviews during which the reviewers did a great job of sorting through and ranking all the possible science cases proposed. I commend them for their hard work, especially under pandemic conditions,” said Sembach. “I’m very pleased to be able to approve such a strong science program for the observatory. These observations are going to provide stunning views of the universe and lead us in new investigative directions that will set the stage for decades of research.”
    -- https://webbtelescope.org/contents/news-releases/2021/news-2021-018

    Personally, I presume it will be one of the ERSs, as several of them are little more than "test what it can do when looking at $OBJECTTYPE", they're listed here: https://www.stsci.edu/jwst/science-execution/approved-ers-programs
    Here are the approved GTOs: https://www.stsci.edu/jwst/science-execution/approved-programs/cycle-1-gto
    And finally, the GOs, which I presume will have lower priority: https://www.stsci.edu/jwst/science-execution/approved-programs/cycle-1-go

    However, given the limited scienciness of some of the ERSs, and the fact that the tests will be taking images through all the instruments - it almost seems a bit artificial to say that those images don't count because nobody specifically called them an "observation".
    --
    I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
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