1. Why did they build the telescope.
In 1990, NASA started the James Webb Space Telescope JWST project. In 2018, this mission will come to fruition when it is launched into space from French Guiana.
The telescope is a major part of President Obama’s vision for a revitalized space program. The goal of this 1.5 billion dollar endeavor was to observe the cosmos- both near and far away- in a never before seen level of detail. This powerful instrument will attain a large field of view with a 6.5-meter segmented primary mirror that will be composed of 18 hexagonal mirrors, giving it an effective 25-meter diameter when fully deployed. You can watch here as these components are meticulously assembled by the European Space Agency at their facility in Spain. When fully functional, the JWST will be a space-based telescope orbiting 1 million miles from Earth and will have an orbital life of 5 to 10 years.
2. What the telescope is and how it works.
The James Webb Space Telescope is part of NASA’s “Beyond Einstein Program” which was initiated to observe phenomena such as dark energy and dark matter. According to NASA, the Beyond Einstein program’s goals are: To study the structure and evolution of the universe; To understand how galaxies form; To discover how stars explode and create elements across generations; To test general relativity using gravity waves; To find planets outside our solar system.
An astronomy enthusiast says it’s like taking family vacation photos every 1 or 2 weeks”. NASA predicts that this will enable them to see the first 1 billion years of the universe.
3. The telescope’s location and how to visit it.
The telescope is set to launch in 2018. This delay has been attributed to integration issues between different parts, as well as a problem with the sunshield which was 1.7 times longer than required. Unfortunately, not everything can go perfectly according to plan during construction and this means that 1 year out of 20 may be spent figuring out what went wrong, tweaking processes, and testing things again before re-attempting. However, early tests have shown promise for success once it’s launched.
4. The world’s most expensive each.
A 4.2 billion dollar “development cost” was also mentioned by the Government Accountability Office; however, it is unclear if this number includes launch expenses which will be around 1.5 billion dollars.
Although the telescope was taken down after three years, the information it yielded was priceless.
NASA wants to send this telescope up wearing “shorts and t-shirts”, not a single astronaut should go with it since there are no moving parts (unlike Hubble). Once the spacecraft has reached its orbit about one million miles away from Earth, 4 small rockets will be used to position it in place approximately 4 times farther than the moon is from us. This distance will prevent solar radiation pressure from pushing the telescope off course as well as protect it from interference with our planet’s magnetic field. It will have enough fuel for an additional 4 years, allowing it to continue observing the sky with no planned service missions.
There were 4 contractors for this project: Northrup Grumman; Harris Corporation Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation; and finally, Space Systems/Loral . The construction is divided up between these 4 companies with most of the work going towards the integration and test phases which will be done in California and Texas respectively. Once testing nears completion, it will be packed up into a more compact form using a payload attach fitting  on its Ariane 5 launch vehicle , also built by Arianespace. To send 4500 kg of equipment 2548 km through space from French Guiana, 4 separate rockets will be used. This process is known as 4-staging, and they are most effective when the payload starts relatively small.
JWST’s primary contractor is Northrup Grumman Space Technology, which was founded in 2003 after Northrop Grumman acquired TRW Inc., another American aerospace defense company that originally designed JWST. The telescope was named after former NASA administrator, James E. Webb who set up the Apollo program for America to win the space race against the Soviets by landing a man on the moon within 10 years. Although many people may believe his most impressive achievement was building this 4.4 billion dollar space telescope, he served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, 4 years before his 6-year term as an administrator began.
The telescope is designed to be serviced after its construction is complete, it will then have a lifespan of 5-10 years before the liquid hydrogen propellant used for fine and coarse adjustments runs out and it enters a safe orbit around Lagrange point 2, where there would be no risk to Earth in case something went wrong. This servicing would likely occur about 4-6 times throughout its lifetime and while we could send astronauts up there to work on the telescope while it’s connected to the space station, such activity poses risks so bold that NASA doesn’t even want to admit they exist . So instead, they’ll probably just attach it to the side of the space station with a robotic arm, especially seeing as it doesn’t have any moving parts.
Northrup Grumman Space Technology 9- Harris Corporation 10- Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation 11- Space Systems / Loral 12 – payload attach fitting 13 – Ariane 5 launch vehicle 14 – Northrop Grumman acquired TRW Inc., 15 – James E. Webb served.