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posted by janrinok on Wednesday December 08 2021, @08:07PM   Printer-friendly

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is fueled up for its Dec. 22 launch:

The new James Webb Space Telescope is topped off and one step closer to taking flight.

Mission team members have finished fueling the James Webb Space Telescope at[sic] ahead of its planned Dec. 22 launch from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, the European Space Agency announced Monday (Dec. 6). The fueling for Webb, which is an international collaborative effort between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency, took 10 days and was completed on Dec. 3, according to the ESA statement.

After a series of delays since the development of the scope first began in 1996, Webb is still on track to finally launch Dec. 22 atop an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

"Webb's propellant tanks were filled separately with [21 gallons] 79.5 l of dinitrogen tetroxide oxidizer and [42 gallons] 159 l hydrazine," the ESA wrote in the announcement, adding that the oxidizer "improves the burn efficiency of the hydrazine fuel."

Now that Webb is fueled, the mission team will begin "combined operations," according to the statement. In this phase, the teams behind the rocket and the telescope will come together to mount Webb on the Ariane 5 rocket and encapsulate it within the rocket's fairing. The newly joined pair will then be moved to the Final Assembly building for final preparations before liftoff.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Fully Fueled for Launch – James Webb Space Telescope:

In preparation for launch later this month, ground teams have successfully completed the delicate operation of loading the James Webb Space Telescope with the propellant it will use to steer itself while in space.

In order to make critical course corrections shortly after launch, to maintain its prescribed orbit nearly 1 million miles from Earth, and to repoint the observatory and manage its momentum during operations, Webb was built with a total of 12 rocket thrusters. These rocket thrusters use either hydrazine fuel or a special mixture of hydrazine fuel and dinitrogen tetroxide oxidizer.

To safely handle these extremely toxic propellants, Webb was moved to the fueling section of the Ariane payload preparation facility at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Specialists wore Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensemble, or "SCAPE," suits while loading the observatory. The nearly 10-day procedure began Nov. 25.

[...] The next large milestones for the joint teams will be to move Webb to the Bâtiment d'Assemblage Final (BAF), or Final Assembly Building; place it atop its rocket; and encapsulate it inside its protective fairing. With final closeouts complete, the full stack of rocket and payload atop its mobile launch platform will be rolled out of the BAF to the launch pad, two days before its scheduled Dec. 22 launch.

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 08 2021, @09:41PM (5 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 08 2021, @09:41PM (#1203116)

    There's not much "too good to be true" about the JWST era. JW sucked up all the funding, so we're likely to lose the Hubble and several other major programs while it is operational. JWST is also not capable of all the spectra that Hubble and the other at-risk programs are, so when JW sees something interesting, it may be decades instead of days before followup can round out the picture.

    I look forward to all the discoveries JWST will surely make, but I dread the pending incessant "if only we could investigate this further with X like we could 10 years ago..."

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  • (Score: 2) by sgleysti on Wednesday December 08 2021, @11:35PM (2 children)

    by sgleysti (56) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 08 2021, @11:35PM (#1203149)

    I wonder why they don't build at least two of each of these things. Surely the cost of the second would be lower than the cost of the first. Heck, building another Hubble with minor upgrades for known problems would be a great thing to do, it seems.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday December 09 2021, @01:31AM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday December 09 2021, @01:31AM (#1203178)

      Because that would make two much sense...

      The scientists have hoodwinked the bean counters on occasion selling programs like Gemini and other stereo vision craft, but a flagship like JWST is subject to the same scrutiny as the shuttle boosters - gotta tow those bad boys back to Florida from the Indian F-ing Ocean to show the voters how frugal NASA is being. Two JWST that just duplicate each others' function? That would increase the total budget 10% but the scrutiny of the program 110% by "fiscally conservative" congress critters.

      They did manage to launch two Voyagers, and some of the other early probes on that logic, but the public wasn't quite done with NASA and JPL as Space Cowboy heroes back then.

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      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 09 2021, @04:01AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 09 2021, @04:01AM (#1203209)

        Two Voyagers was mostly about the planetary alignment making the mission possible being a once in a lifetime thing, so if they only built one and it broke then the opportunity would be lost. Space telescopes aren't on a clock. JWST is especially not following a schedule.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 09 2021, @01:27PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 09 2021, @01:27PM (#1203283)

    Running JWST won't suck up the funding outrageously like the development funding did. It is also hard to really tell how much it impacted other NASA programs. In the earlier days it was sucking all of the air out of the room and NASA managed to get it to be its own Congressional line item in the budget, so that the funding could be decoupled from the NASA directorate. As its own line item, from there I suppose it depends upon whether the appropriators considered it as part of the total NASA budget or whether they treated it as its own separate thing. I wasn't paying enough attention to know from there, but if there are any economics graduate students looking for a good thesis project, I bet that would be one (though I bet JWST budgets/economics has probably spurred a number of dissertations!).

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 10 2021, @02:39AM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 10 2021, @02:39AM (#1203492)

      Perception is all there is, particularly in Congress. Development is largely out of the news, but those amazing images? They actually create significant voter back pressure on the funding. Get too many flashy space programs going at once and the silent majority (which is neither) get their dander up and it rattles the stability of lifetime incumbent conservatives.

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