If the remarkable rocket launch in 2020 was the flight that brought American astronauts back into orbit from American land, then the most important rocket event of 2021
The successor to the mighty Hubble Observatory is due to go into orbit on October 31.
His mission will be to find the first stars to shine in space.
The launch vehicle will be the reputable Ariane-5 vehicle in Europe.
This is part of a deal the European Space Agency (Esa) has entered into to participate in a telescope project led by the US space agency (Nasa).
By providing the rocket and some instruments, Esa guarantees European astronomers the use of the new telescope once it is operational.
The Ariane-5 workhorse is nearing the end of its career. Only eight of the cost vehicles remain, one reserved for this special flight.
Ariane-5 has launched many important payloads over the years, but no one has invested so much time, effort and money in it.
JWST will go to the launch site of the European Cosmodrome in Kourou, French Guiana, at a cost of about 10 billion dollars. This is the amount that will cost the design and construction, combined with the amount set aside for the management of the observatory for five years.
“This mission will be on mission from 2021, “said Stefan Israel, CEO of Arianespace, the French company that offers and operates the European Ariane rocket.
“You know, the first contact we had with Esa and Nasa on this project was in 2002. So, 18 years ago!”
JWST is currently undergoing final tests at the aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman in California.
“The first equipment for the launch campaign will arrive in [French Guiana] six months before the start. The satellite itself, which will be 6.6 tons, will arrive by boat eight weeks before launch, “Mr Israel explained.
“JWST will be prepared in [technical] facilities of our partner, the French space agency. The duration of the launch will be 26 minutes, and you know that the final destination of the satellite will be the famous point Lagrange. “
This destination is a gravitational “sweet spot” about 1.5 million km from Earth. This is a place in the Sun-Earth system where spacecraft can maintain a station by making relatively few orbital adjustments, thus conserving fuel. It is also a place free of environmental disturbances observed by observatories closer to Earth, such as periodic shading and temperature fluctuations.
After descending from the top of Ariane, it will be several weeks before JWST reaches Lagrange.
During this period, the telescope will operate through a series of critical positions of structures that were folded during launch to allow them to fit the rocket.
These structures include a 6.5-meter-wide JWST mirror and its multi-layer sunscreen with a diameter of 21 meters by 14 meters.
None of this will be the responsibility of Arianespace. His only job is to bring the flagship observatory safely off Earth and into space.
“We have worked with Esa and Nasa for the overall reliability of the Ariane-5. Nasa has been very demanding. This is perfectly normal,” Mr Israël told BBC News.