The James Webb Space Telescope has started fuelling ahead of its long-awaited lift-off on December 22, NASA has revealed.
After 25 years of development, NASA, NASA Europe, and Canada have finally made the $10 billion telescope’ready to fly’.
NASA announced that the first fuelling operation began November 25 and will continue for 10 days until December 5.
After last week’s incident at French Guiana’s spaceport, experts cleared the telescope of any potential damage.
James Webb will continue to study exoplanet history, and the origins for the first stars of the universe as the spacecraft launches into orbit from Guiana Space Centre.
The James Webb Space Telescope can be seen at The Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, November 5, 2021, as part of the S5 payload preparation facility (EPCU–S5)
The James Webb Space Telescope (pictured) is planned to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship astrophysics mission
James Webb is due to launch on December 22 on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, a town in French Guiana, South America, the location of Guiana Space Centre.
The launch was originally set for December 18. However, a’recent incident” during preparations has delayed this launch by 4 days. The telescope has been subject to numerous delays throughout its construction and testing.
NASA stated in an update that ‘engineering teams completed additional testing to confirm NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope readiness for flight’.
Webb will launch Wednesday at 7:20 AM EST. [12:20pm GMT].’
It was revealed on November 22 that technicians had been preparing to attach the space telescope to a launch vehicle adapter, used to fix it to the upper stage of an Ariane 5 rocket, when a clamp band suddenly loosened, jolting the observatory.
According to NASA, the incident occurred while operations were taking place under the ‘overall responsibility’ of Arianespace, the French satellite launch company that’s blasting the telescope into orbit from French Guiana.
NASA stated that additional testing was done last week in order to “ensure the observatory’s health” following the incident.
These tests were completed by engineering teams on November 24. A NASA-led anomaly reviewing board found that no observatory component was damaged.
NASA approved the fueling of the observatory after a review called for consent to fuel.
The $10 billion (£7.2bn) James Webb space telescope is a successor to Hubble, and will allow astronomers to peer deeper into the Universe than ever before
After a 16-day voyage aboard the MN Colibri and a short stay in port, the telescope arrived safely in French Guiana on Tuesday, October 12. It was then removed from its transport container before the launch preparations.
James Webb Space Telescope, an instrument that was first developed in 1996, was intended to launch in 2007. It would replace Hubble which is still in operation.
Testing work was already delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, by which time the estimated total cost of developing the telescope had increased to over $10 billion (£7.4 billion).
When it does finally launch, James Webb will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, ‘and everything in between’.
Webb is expected to make unexpected discoveries and aid humanity in understanding the universe’s origins as well as our place within it.
It is possible to go back over 13.5 Billion years and see which galaxies or stars formed using infrared radiation.
In general, the wavelength of light from the first objects is shifted towards the red spectrum by the expansion of the universe.
James Webb, however, will offer improved infrared resolution than Hubble and greater sensitivity when it launches.
NASA stated that the James Webb would begin “the most complicated sequence of deployments ever attempted in one space mission” on December 22 at 28 minutes after launch.
It is so large it will fold, origami-style, to fit in the rocket, according to NASA, and unfurl ‘like a Transformer’ in space.
James Webb, which is 100 times faster than the Hubble telescope is considered an upgrade. NASA claims that it is so big, NASA has said, it can be folded origami style to fit into a rocket and then unfold in space ‘like Transformers’
It will travel to an orbit about one million miles away from Earth and undergo six months of commissioning in space – including unfolding its mirrors and sunshield, cooling down, aligning and calibrating.
NASA states that “astronomers around the world will be then able to perform scientific observations to expand our understanding of this universe.”
Earlier this month, NASA admitted there are more than 300 ways James Webb could fail after its launch, when it takes up its orbit 930,000 miles from Earth.
‘James Webb has to perform some of the most complex deployment sequences ever attempted, and these come with many challenges,’ said Mike Menzel, Webb lead mission systems engineer for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
There are 344 single-point-of-failure items on average, approximately 80 per cent of which are associated with the deployment, Menzel added.
This telescope was named in honor of James E. Webb who, from 1961 until 1968, served as NASA’s administrator and also played an important role in the Apollo Program.
NASA’s original James Webb served as its second administrator. The agency was headed by him from 1961 through 1968. It was a crucial time in the history of early space exploration.
NASA’s decision to name the device after him was a controversial one – he has been accused of homophobia since his passing in 1992 due to his role in the 1963 firing of a gay NASA employee.
He was also asked questions about the 1950-52 “Lavender Scare” during which 91 gay men were ‘purged.
NASA quietly rejected an attempt to rename its telescope. Organisers described it as a “slap in our faces”.