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James Webb Space Telescope litoff on Ariane 5

The travel began at Christmas with its launch

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. 

Following launch and separation from the rocket, Webb’s mission operations centre in Baltimore, USA confirmed Webb deployed its solar array and is in good condition, marking the launch a success.

In the coming month, Webb, an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will travel to its destination: the second Lagrange point (L2), where it will study the Universe in infrared.

The Webb observatory had to be carefully folded into the specially adapted Ariane 5 fairing for launch, which jettisoned away about three minutes after liftoff. Ariane 5 then began a special roll manoeuvre to protect Webb from the Sun’s radiation. After 27 minutes the telescope was released and the upper stage boosted away.

ESA’s ESTRACK network of ground stations played a key role in tracking Ariane 5 and Webb following liftoff until separation.

Now in space and on its way to L2, Webb will undergo a complex unfolding sequence. In the months after, the instruments will be turned on and their capabilities tested. After half a year in space, Webb will start its routine science observations.

Webb will see farther into our origins: from the Universe's first galaxies, to the birth of stars and planets, to exoplanets with the potential for life, and our own Solar System. 

ESA contributed to two of the four scientific instruments on board Webb: NIRSpec and MIRI. 

For the entire duration of the Webb mission, 15 ESA astronomers will be working on telescope operations. 

See for details AVIONEWS.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency