James Webb Space Telescope is cleared for launch! NASA’s $10 BILLION successor to Hubble begins fuelling ahead of lift-off on December 22

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  • NASA says launch preparations are resuming after an ‘incident’ last week
  • James Webb will launch on December 22 from Kourou, a city in French Guiana
  • Refueling is underway for the next generation telescope and will last until December 5th

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The James Webb Space Telescope has begun refueling ahead of its long-awaited lift-off on December 22, NASA has revealed.

The $10 billion telescope, jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, is finally ‘ready to fly’ 25 years after it was built.

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NASA said refueling began on November 25 and will take about 10 days, which will last until December 5.

Experts have cleared the telescope for any potential damage after an incident at its spaceport in French Guiana last week.

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When it finally explodes into space from the Guyana Space Center, James Webb will study the history of exoplanets and the origins of the universe’s first stars.

The James Webb Space Telescope stands at the S5 Payload Preparation Facility (EPCU-S5) on November 5, 2021 at The Guiana Space Center, Kourou, French Guiana.

The James Webb Space Telescope (pictured) is planned to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA's flagship astrophysics mission

The James Webb Space Telescope (pictured) is planned to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship astrophysics mission

James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that can help unravel the mysteries of our universe.

The telescope will be used to observe the first galaxies born in the early universe 13.5 billion years ago, and to observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even moons and planets in our solar system.

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin—about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).

Officials say the cost could exceed the $8 billion (£5.6 billion) program cap set by Congress. The space agency has already put $7 billion (£5 billion) into the telescope.

When it is launched in 2021, it will be the world’s largest and most powerful telescope, capable of looking back 200 million years after the Big Bang.

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James Webb is scheduled to launch on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket on December 22 from Kourou, a city in French Guiana, South America, the location of the Guiana Space Center.

It was earlier scheduled to be launched on December 18, but a ‘recent incident’ during launch preparations pushed it back by four days. Several other delays have affected the telescope’s manufacturing and testing history.

“Engineering teams have completed additional testing, confirming that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is ready for flight,” NASA said in an update.

‘Launch preparation is resuming toward Webb’s targeted launch date, Wednesday, December 22nd, at 7:20 a.m. EST. [12:20pm GMT],

On 22 November it was revealed that technicians were preparing to attach the space telescope to a launch vehicle adapter used to fix it to the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket, when a clamp band suddenly jolted the observatory. Giving loose.

According to NASA, the incident occurred while operations were being carried out under the “overall responsibility” of the French satellite launch company Arianespace, which destroyed the telescope in orbit from French Guiana.

NASA said additional testing was carried out last week to “ensure the health of the observatory” following the incident.

On November 24, engineering teams completed these tests, and the NASA-led Anomaly Review Board concluded that no observatory components were damaged in the incident.

A ‘consent to fuel’ review was carried out, and NASA approved refueling to begin at the observatory.

The $10 billion (£7.2bn) James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to Hubble, and will allow astronomers to look deeper into the universe than ever before

The $10 billion (£7.2bn) James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to Hubble, and will allow astronomers to look deeper into the universe than ever before

After a 16-day voyage aboard MN Colibri, the telescope finally reached French Guiana on Tuesday 12 October, and was recently removed from the transport container prior to launch preparations.

After a 16-day voyage aboard MN Colibri, the telescope finally reached French Guiana on Tuesday 12 October, and was recently removed from the transport container prior to launch preparations.

Instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope

NIRCam (near infrared camera) an infrared imager from the edge of the scene through the near infrared

NIRSPC (Near Infrared Spectrograph) will also perform spectroscopy over the same wavelength range.

Miri (mid-infrared instrument) will measure in the long infrared wavelength range from between 5 and 27 micrometers.

FGS/NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph), is used to stabilize the observatory’s line-of-sight during science observations.

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The James Webb Space Telescope began development in 1996 and was originally envisaged to launch in 2007 to succeed Hubble, which is still operational.

Testing work had already been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, taking the estimated total cost of developing the telescope to more than $10 billion (£7.4 billion) by that time.

When it finally launches, James Webb will trace every stage of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, ‘and everything in between’.

The web should reveal new and unexpected discoveries, and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.

One of these objectives is to look back over 13.5 billion years to the first stars and galaxies that formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, using infrared light.

Generally, by the time light from the first objects reaches more basic telescopes, it has shifted toward the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum as a result of the expansion of the universe.

But when it does finally launch, James Webb will deliver superior infrared resolution and sensitivity to Hubble.

On 22 December, approximately 28 minutes after the explosion, James Webb will separate from its launch vehicle and begin ‘the most complex sequence of deployments ever attempted in a single location’.

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