Minimize JWST

JWST (James Webb Space Telescope)

Concept    Launch    Observatory    Sensor Complement    Spacecraft Bus and Sunshield
Development Status    Spinoff Technologies    Supernova Study    How to Weigh a Black Hole    References   


JWST is an orbiting optical observatory and a key element in NASA's Origins Program, optimized for observations in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is considered the successor mission of HST (Hubble Space Telescope) while operating over a different spectral range. At the NIR and MWIR wavelengths, it benefits from operating at intrinsically lower backgrounds than any comparably sized telescope on the ground. JWST, previously known as NGST (Next Generation Space Telescope), will be the premier space facility for astronomers in the decade following its launch. The overall objectives are to study the first stars and galaxies after the big bang. Major science goals (themes) of the mission are to find answers to the following questions: 1) 2)

• What is the shape of the Universe?

• How do galaxies evolve?

• How do stars and planetary systems form and interact?

• How did the Universe built up its present chemical/elemental composition?

• What is the nature of dark matter?

The radiation from the very distant objects to be observed is practically all in the infrared region. Many of the early events happened when the Universe was between 1 million and 1 billion years old, a period that is not known to earthlings (the dark ages of the Universe). To accomplish the goals of the science themes, the main JWST design requirement calls for the detection of objects up to 400 times fainter than those observable by current ground-based or spaceborne observatories.

Historical background: Large next-generation projects with high-performance observation requirements take about two decades (and more) from first studies to launch. Initial planning for the new mission started in 1989 (visions, conceptual studies). The goal was to have a successor mission for HST ready for launch well before 2010.

In the mid-1990s, a telescope design with an 8 m aperture was considered. The challenge was to come up with a lower cost for the large telescope than for previous much smaller space telescopes. This involved conceptual studies by industry. In 1996, a committee report was written, based on these studies: “Next Generation Space Telescope, Visiting a Time When Galaxies Were Young.” This report established also a roadmap to NGST activities, defining the new building blocks and to search for enabling technologies and concepts - in particular in the fields of large-aperture lightweight mirrors that are actively controlled, of advanced detector designs, of suitable cooling techniques for all critical components, and of precision metrology to achieve the goal of measuring ultra precise stellar positions.

A broad range of talent on a national and international level and from many institutions, academia and industry was directly involved in the NGST detailed definition phase (Phase A) including simulations and feasibility studies. In 1997, an ad hoc Science Working Group was formed which came up with thematic science goals and developed a so-called “Design Reference Mission” (DRM), representing a hypothetical suite of key science observing programs [stating the expected physical properties (number density and brightness), the desired observation modes (wavelength band, spectral resolution, number of revisits), and a minimum operational life of 2.5 years to complete the mission] for NGST - which provided a yardstick for technology testing. DRM was and is the primary tool against which any JWST architectures are being measured. The shear complexity of the project and the performance requirements demanded a technology development and validation strategy to address and demonstrate a critical path to a workable design of the mission. 3) 4) 5) 6)

In 2000/1, the NGST project experienced a rescoping of the telescope size (from 8 m aperture to 6.5 m) to keep projected costs in bounds. There were also some technology maturity uncertainties.

The project started in 2002 with a Mission Definition Review. NASA began to realize that the critical technologies had reached a level of sufficient maturity to justify a go-ahead with the next phase of the project.

In September 2002, NASA renamed NGST to JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) in honor of James E. Webb (1906-1992), NASA's second administrator during the Apollo Program of the 1960s (1961-1968). At the same time in Sept. 2002, NASA awarded the prime contract of the JWST observatory development (spacecraft, telescope, integration and testing) to Northrop Grumman Space Technology (formerly TRW) of Redondo Beach, CA.

In the fall of 2003 ICR(Initial Confirmation Review) was given, starting the Phase B of the JWST project. The C/D Phase started in 2008.

The CDR (Critical Design Review) of the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) is planned for December 2013 (Ref. 29).

Project partners: NASA leads an international partnership in the joint JWST mission that includes ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). Both agencies (ESA, CSA) collaborated in the JWST project already at an early planning stage (1996). Aside from instrument contributions, ESA will also launch the JWST spacecraft on an Ariane 5 launcher as agreed to with NASA. NASA/GSFC is managing the JWST project, while STScI (Space Telescope Science Institute) of Baltimore, MD, is responsible for JWST science and mission operations, as well as ground station development (STScI is the same organization that is operating the Hubble Space Telescope). A formal JWST and LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) cooperation agreement between NASA and ESA was signed on June 18, 2007 at the International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, France. 7) 8) 9) 10) 11)

A most interesting and valuable side effect of the technology development effort for JWST is that these new technologies will also be available to many other space projects (astronomy, space science, Earth observation, etc.) providing potentially a quantum step in observation performance.

Mission concept:

The JWST mission concept is an ambitious and most challenging development program, requiring a lot of innovative technology introduction as well as conceptual breakthroughs on various levels to meet the proposed observational performances. The objectives of the science themes can only be met by a combination of a large-aperture telescope in space (6.5 m φ ), a very low detection temperature to eliminate noise, and an ideal observing environment (elimination of stray light).

The observatory will be shielded from the sun and Earth by a large deployable sunshade, the entire telescope assembly will be passively cooled to about 37 K, giving JWST exceptional performance in the near-infrared and mid-infrared wavebands. The baseline wavelength range for the instrumentation is 0.6 - 28 µm, and the telescope will be diffraction-limited above 2 µm. The sensitivity of the telescope will be limited only by the natural zodiacal background, and should exceed that of ground-based and other space-based observatories by factors of 10 to 100,000, depending on the wavelength and type of observation. The JWST observatory will have a 5 year design life (with a goal of 10 years of operations) and will not be serviceable by astronauts (as is Hubble). The total mass of JWST at launch is estimated to be 6,500 kg.

Like Hubble, the JWST will be used by a broad astronomical community to observe targets ranging from objects within our Solar System to the most remote galaxies seen during their formation in the early universe.

Major enabling technologies are:

• Large deployable and lightweight beryllium mirrors (a folding 6.5 meter mirror made up of 18 individual segments, adjustable by cryogenic actuators). To fit inside the launch vehicle, the large space telescope prime mirror must be folded in sections for launch, then unfolded (deployed) precisely into place after launch, making it the first segmented optical system deployed in space.

• Deployment of large structures. Once in space, the multilayer sunshield that was folded over the optics during launch will deploy to its full size and keep the telescope shadowed from the sun.

• Introduction of MEMS technology to the microshutter system of the NIRSpec instrument. The programmable microshutters to allow object selection for the spectrograph.

Overview of payload instruments:

NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera), funded by NASA with the University of Arizona as prime contractor. CSA is participating in the development of the NIRCam instrument.

NIRSpec (Near-Infrared multi-object Spectrograph), funded by ESA with EADS Astrium GmbH as prime contractor (the detector arrays and a micro-shutter are supplied by NASA/GSFC)

MIRI (Mid-Infrared Camera-Spectrograph) a joint instrument of JPL and ESA. The instrument (about 50%) is being provided by ESA member states, coordinated but not funded by ESA.

FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor) with TFI (Tunable Filter Imager), funded by CSA (Canadian Space Agency)


Figure 1: Photometric performance of JWST instruments as compared to those of current observatories (image credit: STScI)

Legend to Figure 1: Plotted is the faintest flux for a point source that can be detected at 10 sigma in a 104 s integration. The fluxes are given in Janskies as well as AB magnitudes. 12)


Figure 2: Comparison of JWST light gathering power vs spectral range with Hubble and Spitzer telescopes (image credit: STScI) 13)

Launch: NASA is targeting Oct. 31, 2021, for the launch of the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope from French Guiana, due to impacts from the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as technical challenges. 14) The launch of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is now planned for 31 October 2021. 15)

This decision is based on a recently completed schedule risk assessment of the remaining integration and test activities prior to launch. Previously, Webb was targeted to launch in March 2021.

• NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope currently is undergoing final integration and test phases that will require more time to ensure a successful mission. After an independent assessment of remaining tasks for the highly complex space observatory, Webb’s previously revised 2019 launch window now is targeted for approximately May 2020 (Ref. NO TAG#.

- “Webb is the highest priority project for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, and the largest international space science project in U.S. history. All the observatory’s flight hardware is now complete, however, the issues brought to light with the spacecraft element are prompting us to take the necessary steps to refocus our efforts on the completion of this ambitious and complex observatory,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

- Testing the hardware on the observatory’s telescope element and spacecraft element demonstrate that these systems individually meet their requirements. However, recent findings from the project’s Standing Review Board (SRB) indicate more time is needed to test and integrate these components together and then perform environmental testing at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, the project’s observatory contractor.

- NASA is establishing an external Independent Review Board (IRB), chaired by Thomas Young, a highly respected NASA and industry veteran who is often called on to chair advisory committees and analyze organizational and technical issues. The IRB findings, which will complement the SRB data, are expected to bolster confidence in NASA’s approach to completing the final integration and test phase of the mission, the launch campaign, commissioning, as well as the entire deployment sequence. Both boards’ findings and recommendations, as well as the project’s input, will be considered by NASA as it defines a more specific launch time frame. NASA will then provide its assessment in a report to Congress this summer.

- NASA will work with its partner, ESA (European Space Agency), on a new launch readiness date for the Ariane 5 vehicle that will launch Webb into space. Once a new launch readiness date is determined, NASA will provide a cost estimate that may exceed the projected $8 billion development cost to complete the final phase of testing and prepare for launch. Additional steps to address project challenges include increasing NASA engineering oversight, personnel changes, and new management reporting structures.

- This is a pivotal year for Webb when the 6.5-meter telescope and science payload element will be joined with the spacecraft element to form the complete observatory. The spacecraft element consists of the tennis-court-sized sunshield, designed by Northrop Grumman, and the spacecraft bus, which houses the flight avionics, power system, and solar panels. Because of Webb’s large size, engineers had to design components that fold origami-style into the Ariane 5 rocket’s fairing configuration.

- Webb has already completed an extensive range of tests to ensure it will safely reach its orbit at nearly one million miles from Earth and perform its science mission. As with all NASA projects, rigorous testing takes time, increasing the likelihood of mission success.

- “Considering the investment NASA and our international partners have made, we want to proceed systematically through these last tests, with the additional time necessary, to be ready for a May 2020 launch,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

- After the successful test performance of Webb’s telescope and science payload in 2017 at NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, the telescope element was delivered to Northrop Grumman earlier this year. Both halves of the 13,500-pound observatory now are together in the same facility for the first time.

- The spacecraft element will next undergo environmental testing, subjecting it to the vibrational, acoustic and thermal environments it will experience during its launch and operations. These tests will take a few months to complete. Engineers then will integrate and test the fully assembled observatory and verify all components work together properly.

- Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. ESA is providing the Ariane 5 as part of its scientific collaboration with NASA.

- The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier infrared space observatory and the biggest astronomical space science telescope ever built, complementing the scientific discoveries of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other science missions. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

Table 1: NASA statement of Release 18-019 of 27 March 2018 regarding the new launch target of May 2020 for JWST

Figure 3: James Webb Space Telescope Launch and Deployment (video credit: NASA, Northrop Grumman) 16)

• April 6, 2018: NASA has assembled members of an external Independent Review Board for the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope. The board will evaluate a wide range of factors influencing Webb’s mission success and reinforce the agency’s approach to completing the final integration and testing phase, launch campaign, and commissioning for NASA’s next flagship space science observatory.

- “We are exploring every aspect of Webb’s final testing and integration to ensure a successful mission, delivering on its scientific promise,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This board’s input will provide a higher level of confidence in the estimated time needed to successfully complete the highly complex tasks ahead before NASA defines a specific launch time frame.”

- The board, convened by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, includes individuals with extensive experience in program and project management, schedule and cost management, systems engineering, and the integration and testing of large and complex space systems, including systems with science instrumentation, unique flight hardware, and science objectives similar to Webb.

- The Independent Review Board review process will take approximately eight weeks. Once the review concludes, the board members will deliver a presentation and final report to NASA outlining their findings and recommendations, which are expected to complement recent data input from Webb’s Standing Review Board. NASA will review those findings and then provide its assessment in a report to Congress at the end of June. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, the project’s observatory contractor, will proceed with the remaining integration and testing phase prior to launch.

The board consists of the following notable leaders in the space science community:

Mr. Thomas Young, NASA/Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland – Retired (Chair)

Dr. William Ballhaus, Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California- Retired

Mr. Steve Battel, Battel Engineering, Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona

Mr. Orlando Figueroa, NASA Headquarters and Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland – Retired

Dr. Fiona Harrison, Caltech University in Pasadena, California

Ms. Michele King, NASA Office of Chief Financial Officer/Strategic Investments Division in Washington, DC

Mr. Paul McConnaughey, NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center/Webb Standing Review Board (Chair) in Huntsville, Alabama

Ms. Dorothy Perkins, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland - Retired

Mr. Pete Theisinger, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California

Dr. Maria Zuber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Table 2: Independent Review Board of JWST 17)

• Dec. 17, 2015: The next great space observatory took a step closer this week when ESA signed the contract with Arianespace that will see the James Webb Space Telescope launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou in October 2018. The contract includes a cleaner fairing and integration facility to avoid contaminating the sensitive telescope optics. 18)

- With a 6.5 m diameter telescope, the observatory must be launched folded up inside Ariane’s fairing. The 6.6 ton craft will begin unfolding shortly after launch, once en route to its operating position some 1.5 million km from Earth on the anti-sunward side.


The orbit of JWST has been selected to be at L2. The spacecraft will be in a Lissajous (or halo) orbit about the Lagrangian point L2. In the Sun‐Earth system the L2 point is on the rotating Sun-Earth axis about the same distance away as L1 (1.5 million km, representing 1/100 the distance from Earth to the Sun) but at the opposite side of the Earth. The L1 location is inside the Earth orbit while the L2 location is outside the Earth orbit.

The halo orbit of JWST is in a plane slightly out of the ecliptic plane. This orbit avoids Earth and moon eclipses of the sun. The halo orbit period is about 6 months. Nominal station keeping maneuvers will be performed every half orbit (i.e. in intervals of about 3 months).


Figure 4: Locations of the five Lagrangian points in the Sun-Earth system

The L2 location is considered to offer the most advantageous viewing for astronomical targets (looking toward the universe) due to nearly constant lighting conditions (minimum of stray light). Another advantage of the L2 location is that it offers a stable thermal environment. The telescope is kept in perpetual shadow by looking into the deep space direction. The deep space provides a 2.7 K black body radiation. This ideal heat sink is being used to provide the passive cooling for the payload to a temperature range of about 37 K, shielded from sunlight (entering the spacecraft from the opposite direction) by a five-layer sunshield [passive cooling is the most elegant and economical method available to obtain the required operating temperatures for infrared detection].


Figure 5: Overview of JWST trajectory to L2 (image credit: NASA)


Figure 6: Artist's rendering of the JWST observatory (image credit: NASA)

JWST deployment sequence:

During the transfer orbit to L2 different elements of the JWST will be deployed and commissioning will start. The observatory has five deployment stages involving the following elements: 19)

1) Deployment of spacecraft appendages (solar arrays, high gain antenna)

2) Deployment of the sunshield (unfolding 2 days after launch)

3) Extension of the tower

4) Deployment of the secondary mirror (positioned on a tripod structure)

5) Deployment of the primary mirror wings

The deployment of the solar arrays and the high gain antenna is scheduled for the first day to provide the capabilities of onboard power generation and a spacecraft communications link. The unfolding of the sunshield will occur two days after launch, while the timeline for secondary and primary mirror deployment is foreseen after four days. “First light” will occur about 28 days after launch, initiating wavefront sensing and control activities to align the mirror segments. Instrument checkout will start 37 days after launch, well before the final L2 orbit insertion is obtained after 106 days. This is being followed by full commissioning procedures expected to last until about 6 months after launch. 20)


Figure 7: Deployment sequence of the OTE (image credit: NASA, STScI)


The Observatory architecture is comprised of three elements: OTE (Optical Telescope Element), ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module), and the spacecraft (bus and sunshield). A key aspect of the JWST architecture is the use of semi-rigid primary mirror segments mounted on a very stable and rigid backplane composite structure. The architecture is referred to as “semi-rigid” because it has a modest amount of flexibility that allows for on-orbit compensation of segment-to-segment radius of curvature variations. 21) 22) 23) 24) 25) 26) 27) 28) 29)


Figure 8: The three elements of the JWST flight segment (image credit: NASA) 30)


Figure 9: The JWST spacecraft, reflecting the addition of the trim flap and the new solar panel array (image credit: NASA)




(Optical Telescope Element)

- TMA (Three Mirror Anastigmatic) design, f/20, 25 m2 collecting area
- Fine steering mirror (FSM) with line-of-sight (LOS) stabilization < 7.3 marcsec (or mas)
- Four separate deployments
- Semi-rigid hexagonal mirror segments and graphite composite backplane structure

- Superior image quality over the ISIM FOV, provides science resolution and sensitivity
- Excellent pointing control and stability in conjunction with the spacecraft attitude control
- Simple, reliable and robust deployment
- Allows ground verification of the OTE, provides stable optical performance over temperature

Primary mirror

- Primary mirror deploys in two steps (2-chord fold)
- Composed of 18 semi-rigid hexagonal segments, each with set-and-monitor wavefront control actuators
- Mirror segment material is Beryllium

- Highly reliable deployment
- All segments are mechanically near-identical, achieving efficiencies in manufacturing, assembly and testing
- Known material properties with demonstrated optical performance over temperature

Secondary mirror

- Tripod configuration for support structure
- Deployment using a single redundant actuator
- Semi-rigid optic with 6 degrees of freedom (DoF) alignment

- Provides rigidity, minimizes obscuration and scattered light into the field of view
- Low risk, high margin (torque margin > 32 times the friction load)
- Permits reliable and accurate telescope alignment

Aft optics

Fixed baffle

Reduces stray light and houses the tertiary mirror and the FSM


- Simple semi-kinematic mount; 8 m2 of thermal radiators, and 19.9 m3 volume.
- Contains all science instruments (SI) and FGS

- Provides a simple interface for the ISIM to decouple ISIM development from the OTE
- Allows for parallel development and early testing


- Integral 1 Hz passive vibration isolators
- Thermally isolates the OTE from the spacecraft

- Reduces S/C dynamic noise onto OTE/ISIM
- Achieves small mirror temperature gradients


- 5 layer “V” groove radiator design reduces solar energy to a few 10's of mW
- Folded about OTE during launch
- Sized (~19.4 m x 11.4 m) and shaped to limit solar radiation induced momentum buildup

- Provides a stable thermal environment for passively cooling the OTE and the ISIM
- Reliable deployment, protects OTE during launch
- Reduces the time and fuel for momentum unloading, increases operational efficiency

S/C bus

- Chandra-based attitude control subsystem
- Two-axis gimbaled high gain Earth-pointing antenna (omni-directional), Ka- and S-band
- 471 Gbit solid state recorder
- Propellant for >11 years

- Flight-proven low noise dynamic environment that minimizes line-of-sight jitter
- Contingency operations and link margin
- Store > 2 days of science & engineering data
- Extended operation capability

Table 3: Overview of key design features and benefits of the Observatory






0.6 - 29 µm. Reflective gold coatings


Lissajous orbit about L2


FGS tunable
NIRSpec Med

- SNR=10, integration time = τi, R=λ/Δλ and Zodicial of 1.2 times that at north ecliptic pole
- 12 nJy (1.1 μm, τi=10,000 s, and λ/Δλ= 4)
- 10.4 nJy (2.0 μm, τi=10,000 s, and λ/Δλ = 4)
- 368 nJy (3.5 μm, τi=10,000 s, and λ/Δλ = 100)
- 120 nJy (3.0 μm, τi=10,000 s, and λ/Δλ = 100)
- 560 nJy (10 μm, τi=10,000 s, and λ/Δλ = 5)
- 5000 nJy (21 μm, τi=10,000 s, and λ/Δλ = 4.2)
- 5.2 x 10-22 Wm-2 (2 µm, τi=100,000 s, R=1000)
- 3.4 x 10-21 Wm-2 (9.2 µm, τi=10,000 s, R=2400)
- 3.1 x 10-20 Wm-2 (22.5 µm, τi=10,000 s, R=1200)

Celestial sphere coverage

observing efficiency

- 100% annually
- 39.7% at any given time
- 100% of sphere has at least 51 contiguous days visibility
- 30% for > 197 days
- Continuous within 5º of ecliptic poles

- Observatory ~80.7%

& stability

- Encircled Energy of 75% at 1 µm for 150 mas radius
- Strehl ratio of ~ 0.86 at 2 µm.
- PSF stability better than 1%

Mission life

- 5-year minimum lifetime
- 11 years for fuel
- Commissioning in < 6 months

Telescope FOV

- 166 arcmin x 166 arcmin FOV
-ISIM instruments share FOV with common aperture



Table 4: Overview of the predicted performance of the JWST observatory

OTE (Optical Telescope Element):

The OTE is of course the key element of the observatory with a primary mirror aperture diameter of 6.5 m. A lightweight design is mandatory to keep the launch costs in bounds. Early in the JWST program, an AMSD (Advanced Mirror System Demonstrator) project was launched to address the feasibility and readiness level of the required enabling technologies.

The following requirements were placed on JWST's optics (based on an “optical telescope element” study of 1996:

• The mirror should be sensitive to 1-5 µm (0.6-30 µm extended)

• It should be diffraction limited to 2 µm

• It will have to operate in the temperature range of 30-60 K

• It should have an areal density of < 15 kg/m2.


Figure 10: Isometric drawing of the OTE telescope structure (image credit: NASA, STScI)

The JWST prime contractor, NGAS (Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) in consultation with the JWST Telescope Team, selected the beryllium-based mirror technology design made by BATC (Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation) as the primary mirror material with the following features: 31) 32)

• 1.318 m point-to-point light-weighted beryllium semi-rigid mirror (element size)

• 13.4 kg/m2 beryllium substrate areal density

• 19.3 kg/m2 areal density for the mirror system - including mirror, reaction structure, flexures, and actuators

• A SBMD (Subscale Beryllium Model Demonstrator) element achieved a 19 nm rms “surface roughness” at 38 K.

Beryllium was chosen over glass as the mirror material because it is lighter and has a low coefficient of thermal expansion at cryogenic temperatures. Since JWST is an infrared telescope, it must operate at cryogenic temperatures (< 40 K) so that the heat of the telescope does not interfere with the radiation it captures. Beryllium mirrors have a heritage in past astronomy missions such as in IRAS (InfraRed Astronomical Satellite, launch Jan. 25, 1983), COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer, launch Nov. 18, 1989) and the Spitzer Space Telescope (launch Aug. 25, 2003). The material properties of beryllium are known to temperatures of 10 K.

Aside from its lightweight features, the primary mirror must be segmented, so that it can be folded up to fit into the nose cone of a rocket. Once on orbit, the telescope will be deployed, using motors to unfold the primary mirror and other important assemblies. Then the telescope will be cooled down from room temperature to about 37 K by the ambient environment on its way to L2 - a temperature change of about 300 K is experienced which obviously causes misalignments and figure errors of the optics system. Note: Passive cooling is attained by placing the observatory at L2 and keeping the telescope and its instrumentation in perpetual shadow by means of a large deployable sunshade.

The primary mirror design consists of 18 hexagonal segments (1.315 m flat-to-flat side), in two rings around the center, resulting in a 6.5 m flat-to-flat diameter with a collecting area of 25 m2. A TMA (Three Mirror Anastigmatic) design is employed with a Strehl ratio of ~0.84 at λ = 2 µm providing a very low background noise. The telescope has an effective f/number of f/16.67, and an effective focal length of 131.4 m.

The segments of the primary mirror act as a single mirror when properly phased relative to each other. The phasing is achieved via a 6 DoF (Degree of Freedom) rigid body motion of the individual segments, and an additional control for the segment mirror radius of curvature. The 18 segments have three separate segment types (A, B, C) with slightly different aspheric prescriptions depending on placement as shown in Figure 11. The numbers 1 to 6 represent the six-fold symmetry of the hexagonal packing of the primary mirror.

Figure 12 shows the rear portion of the mirror segments and the seven actuators. The architecture is “semi-rigid” because it has a modest amount of flexibility that allows for on-orbit compensation of segment-to-segment radius of curvature (ROC) variations. This ROC adjustment is made independent of any attachment to the backplane structure to prevent mirror distortion.

The six actuators providing rigid body motion are arranged in three bipods to form a kinematic attachment to the backplane. Each bipod attaches to a triangular shaped structure which is attached to the isogrid structure of the mirror segment. This structure spreads the loads over the surface of the mirror. The other end of the actuators attaches through a secondary structure and flexure to the backplane. The seventh actuator controls the segment radius of curvature and is independent of the rigid body actuators. The actuators operate at cryogenic and ambient temperatures, and have both coarse and fine positioning capability. This configuration enables simple rigid body motion of the segments without distorting the segment surface. 33)


Figure 11: Arrangement and designation of primary mirror segments and images of the mirrors (image credit: NASA, BATC)

Legend to Figure 11: JWST completes the gold coating of it's telescope mirrors with segment C1. A microscopically thin layer of gold maximizes the reflectivity of these mirrors to infrared light.


Figure 12: Backside of the primary mirror with the three bipod actuators (image credit: NGAS)

WFS&C (Wavefront Sensing and Control) subsystem: A WF&C semi-rigid structure is being used for phasing (to counteract the misalignments). WFS&C consists of actuators mounted on the telescope primary mirror segments and on the secondary mirror, to deform and displace the critical telescope optics in ways that are very effective in compensating the likely on-orbit deformations. The WFS&C software processes images from the cameras to measure the optical aberrations. The software then computes actuator commands to correct the aberrations.


Figure 13: Illustration of the OTE subsystems/assemblies (image credit: NASA, STScI) 34)

Operating temperatures: The large sunshade will protect the telescope from heating by direct sunlight, allowing it to cool down to temperatures of < 45 K. The near-infrared instruments will work at about 30 K through a passive cooling system. The mid-infrared detectors will work at a temperature of 7 K, using stored cryogen (active cooling).


Figure 14: Conceptual layout of the OTE and interfaces to ISIM (image credit: NGAS, STScI)


Figure 15: As at the end of 2013, all 18 of the JWST primary mirror segment assemblies are complete and have arrived at Goddard, where they are being stored inside separate stainless steel shock-absorbing canisters until it is time for mirror assembly (image credit: NASA)

ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module)

The ISIM provides structure, environment, control electronics and data handling for three modular science instruments: NIRCam, NIRSpec, and MIRI, and the observatory FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor). ISIM is being provided by NASA/GSFC. In addition to designing the ISIM structure, NASA Goddard provides other infrastructure subsystems critical for the operation of the instruments, including the ISIM Thermal Control Subsystem; ISIM Control and Data Handling Subsystem; ISIM Remote Services Unit; ISIM Flight Software; ISIM Electronics Compartment, and ISIM Harness Assemblies. 35) 36) 37) 38) 39)

ISIM is a distributed system consisting of cold and warm modules.

• The cryogenic instrument module is integrated with the OTE and the sensor complement, all of which are passively cooled to the cryogenic temperature of 39 K. This passively cooled cryogenic (39 K) section houses the instruments NIRCam, NIRSpec, MIRI and the FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor). The MIRI instrument is further cooled by a cryocooler to 7 K.

• The second area is the IEC (ISIM Electronics Compartment), which provides the mounting surfaces and a thermally-controlled environment for the instrument control electronics (region 2 maintained at 298 K). The ICE package is mounted onto the exterior of the ISIM structure.

• The third area (warm module) is the ISIM Command and Data Handling (ICDH) subsystem, which includes ISIM flight software, and the MIRI cryocooler compressor and control electronics (region 3 maintained at 298 K). The warm region of ISIM is located in the spacecraft on the warm side of the Observatory. This more benign environment allows for relaxed thermal requirements on major portions of the electronics with higher power dissipation, and it avoids unnecessary heat loads in the cold section.


Figure 16: ISIM is the science instrument payload of JWST (image credit: NASA) 40)


Figure 17: Components of the integrated ISIM with the FGS mounted inside the structure (image credit: NASA)

Each ISIM instrument reimages the OTE focal plane onto its FPA (Focal Plane Array) assembly, allowing for independent selection of detector plate scale for sampling of the optical PSF (Point Spread Function). A fine steering mirror (FSM) is used for accurate optical pointing and image stabilization. The FSM is located at the image of the pupil, after the tertiary mirror but forward of the focal plane interface to the ISIM. The FSM, coupled with the low structural noise spacecraft, suppresses line-of-sight jitter to allow diffraction-limited performance at 2 µm. The V1, V2, and V3 coordinate systems are defined by the vertex of the primary mirror as shown in Figure 14.

The four scientific instruments onboard JWST are contained in the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) which is mounted to the BSF (Back Plane Support) behind the primary mirror. ISIM contains four instruments: MIRI,FGS/IRISS, NIRCam, and NIRSpec. The IEC (ISIM Electronics Compartment) is also mounted to the BSF and holds a number of high-power boxes, totaling 200 W of dissipation, at room temperature on the cold side of the sunshield. This is an order of magnitude above the summed dissipation of the remainder of the cold side. Its proximity to the cryogenic instruments is driven by the noise-sensitive science data that must be processed by electronics with the IEC. 41)

The IEC has been designed to hold room-temperature electronics boxes in close proximity to the cryogenic telescope and instrument module and to direct the 200 W dissipation so that is does not have a negative affect on the observatory performance. This is made possible through multiple radiative isolators in series, conductive isolation, and directional baffles. Analysis has shown that this design will meet the requirements levied on the IEC by the observatory, allowing the IEC to function as an integral part of the James Webb Space Telescope.


Figure 18: ISIM components within the Observatory (image credit: NASA)


Spectral range (µm)

Optical elements


Plate scale

FOV (Field of View)

NIRCam (Short

0.6 - 2.3

Fixed filters
(R~4, R~10, R~100),
coronagraphic spots

Two 2 x 2 mosaics of 2048 x 2048 arrays


2.2' x 4.4'

NIRCam (Long

2.4 - 5.0

Fixed filters
(R~4, R~10, R~100),
coronagraphic spots

2048 x 2048


2.2' x 4.4'

NIRSpec (prism,
R=100 resolving power)

0.6 - 5.0

Transmissive slit mask:
4 x 384 x 175 micro-shutter
array, 250 (spectral) by 500
(spatial) marcsec; fixed
slits 200 or 300 marcsec wide
by 10 cm long

2048 x 2048


3.4' x 3.1'

NIRSpec (Grating,

1.0 - 5.0


1.0 - 5.0

IFU (Integrated Field Unit)

3.0” x 3.0”

MIRI (Imaging)

5 - 28

Broad-band filters,
coronagraphic spots &
phase masks

1024 x 1024


1.4' x 1.9'
(26” x 26”

MIRI (Prism

5 -10

R ~ 100


5 - 28

Integral field spectrograph
(R~3000) in 4 bands

Two 1024 x 1024

200-470 depending on band

3.6” x 3.6” to
7.5” x 7.5”


1.5 – 2.6
3.1 – 4.8

filters+etalon (R~100)

2048 x 2048


2.3' x 2.3'

Table 5: Overview of science instrument characteristics

The ISIM instruments are located in an off-axis position, which yield excellent image quality over the 9.4 arcminute field, as shown by the contours of residual wavefront error as a function of field location in Figure 21. The cold portion of the ISIM is integrated with the OTE.


Figure 19: Schematic diagram of the accommodation of the four science instruments in ISIM (image credit: NASA)


Figure 20: NASA engineers check out the unwrapped ISIM structure in a clean room in 2009 (image credit: NASA) 42)


Figure 21: ISIM focal plane allocation layout (image credit: STScI, NASA)

Legend to Figure 21: Placement of the ISM instruments in the telescope field of view. The field of view of each instrument is fully contained within the instrument allocation regions. The numbers indicate the wavefront error contribution by the optical telescope element (in nm) at each location.


Figure 22: The cryogenic portion of the ISIM system (left) is shown in its test configuration (right) for the CV-1RR (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 22: A high fidelity simulation of the JWST telescope beam is fed from below into the ISIM by an Optical SIMulator (OSIM) that is mounted on vibration isolators. The SES vacuum vessel is equipped with nitrogen and helium shrouds to enable testing at the 40 K nominal flight operating temperature. 43)

The ISIM structure and assembly has a total mass of ~ 1400 kg which is about 23% of the JWST mass.

ISIM status:

• Summer 2015: The ISIM enters this final testing sequence in its full flight configuration. After some precursor integration and test activities, which included two very successful cryo-vacuum campaigns (called CV1-RR and CV2, the latter of which was in a nearly-final configuration), the ISIM underwent a series of activities to upgrade its instruments and systems to full flight readiness. These activities included: 44)

- Completion of the upgrade of the near-infrared detector arrays in NIRCam, NIRSpec, and FGS/NIRISS to a newer, more robust design that eliminates a dark current degradation mechanism suffered by the earlier generation arrays.

- Installation of new Microshutter Arrays in the NIRSpec with improved stability against the acoustic loads of launch.

- Installation of new grisms in the NIRISS instrument, including a new grism for exoplanet spectroscopy with 2-3 times higher throughput than the original optic.

- Upgraded electronics boards in several instruments for improved performance or reliability.

- Installation of the flight cold head of the MIRI cryocooler system (the Heat Exchanger Stage Assembly, mounted to the ISIM structure).

The first phase of this final environmental test sequence, vibration testing, was completed in June 2015, with vibration of the “ISIM prime” module. Sinusoidal sweep testing was carried out in each of three axes, with amplitudes up to ~2.5g in some frequency bands, in order to verify workmanship by subjecting the system to the low frequency structural dynamic spectrum of the launch environment.


Figure 23: The ISIM structure and flight instruments, re-integrated and ready for environmental testing (image credit: NASA, Chris Nunn)

Sensor complement: (NIRCam, NIRSpec, MIRI, FGS/NIRISS)

NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera)

NIRCam funded by NASA with the University of Arizona as prime contractor (PI: Marcia J. Rieke). CSA is participating in the development of the NIRCam instrument. The industrial partner is Lockheed-Martin Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, CA. The NIRCam objectives are: 45) 46) 47) 48) 49) 50)

• To find “first light” sources. NIRCam surveys will become the backbone of the first light searches and for galaxy evolution studies.

• To assist the space telescope in initial (after deployment) and periodic alignment tests throughout the mission. This requires wavefront sensing to assure perfect alignment and shape of the different primary mirror segments.

• The camera also includes features for studying star formation in the Milky Way and for discovering and characterizing planets around other stars.

The various roles place additional constraints on the camera design. First, the camera must accommodate extra optics and pupil analyzers to enable the wavefront sensing. Secondly, the modules incorporating the wavefront sensing must be fully redundant as the mission depends critically on this functionality. Hence, the NIRCam design includes two identical imaging modules each of which includes dual filter wheels. The dual filter wheels are configured so that one wheel holds bandpass filters while the other wheel holds pupil analyzers thus permitting wavefront analysis as a function of wavelength.

NIRCam employs a compact refractive optics design using dichroics (to split the incoming radiation in 2 wavelengths) to enable simultaneous observation of a field at λ < 2.5 µm and at λ > 2.5 µm. The short wavelength module is Nyquist-sampled at 2 µm while the long wavelength module is Nyquist-sampled at 4 µm.

Wavelength range

0.6 - 5.0 µm

Spectral resolution

Selection of R~4 and R~10 discrete filters, R~100 using 2 tunable filters

FOV (Field of View)

Imaging: 2.16 x 2.16 arcmin at two wavelengths simultaneously
R=100 imaging: Two 2.16 x 2.16 arcmin fields (one λ<2.5µm, one λ>2.5µm)

Spatial resolution

Imaging: 0.0317 arcsec/pixel, λ<2.5µm; 0.068 arcsec/pixel, λ > 2.5µm
R=100: 0.0648 arcsec/pixel


Choice of coronagraphic spots and pupils in all instrument sections

Table 6: Overview of the NIRCam capabilities


Imaging module 1

Imaging module 2

Tunable filter module short λ

Tunable filter module long λ

Wavelength range (µm)

0.6 to 2.3
2.4 to 5

0.6 to 2.3
2.4 to 5

1.2 to 2.5
1 to 2.5 goal

2.5 to 4.5
2.3 to 5 goal

Nyquist sampling (µm)

2 / 4

2 / 4



Pixel format

4096 x 4096 (short λ)
2048 x 2048 (long λ)

4096 x 4096 (short λ)
2048 x 2048 (long λ)

2048 x 2048

2048 x 2048

FOV (arcmin)

2.3 x 2.3

2.3 x 2.3

2.3 x 2.3

2.3 x 2.3

Spectral resolution

4, 10

4, 10



Table 7: NIRCam module characteristics


Figure 24: Schematic layout of a NIRCam imaging module (image credit: NASA)


Figure 25: Schematic of NIRCam coronagraphic design (image credit: STScI)

Legend to Figure 25: An optical wedge in the pupil wheel brings the coronagraphic spots into the field of view. The spots are matched with Lyot stops.

Coronagraphy: To enable the coronagraphic imaging of nearby stars, each of the two identical optical trains in the instrument also contains a traditional focal plane coronagraphic mask plate held at a fixed distance from the FPAs (Focal Plane Assemblies), so that the coronagraph spots are always in focus at the detector plane. Each coronagraphic plate is transmissive, and contains a series of spots of different sizes to block the light from a bright object. Each coronagraphic plate also includes a neutral density spot to enable centroiding on bright stars, as well as point sources at each end that can send light through the optical train of the imager to enable internal alignment checks. Normally these coronagraphic plates are not in the optical path for the instrument, but they are selected by rotating into the beam a mild optical wedge that is mounted in the pupil wheel (Figure 25), which translates the image plane so that the coronagraphic masks are shifted onto the active detector area (Ref. 34).


Figure 26: Layout of a NIRCam imaging module (image credit: University of Arizona)

The NIRCam filters and pupil selections are given in Table 8. All of the camera's filter wheels are identical, 12 position dual wheels. NIRCam also includes a set of broadband filters whose wavelengths and widths have been carefully chosen to support accurate photometric redshift estimation.


Shortwave imaging

Longwave imaging

Tunable filter

Filter wheel (µm)

Pupil wheel

Filter wheel (µm)

Pupil wheel

Filter wheel

Pupil wheel


B1: 0.7

Imaging pupil

B5: 2.7

Imaging pupil


Imaging pupil


B2: 1.1

Flat field source

B6: 3.6

Flat field source


Flat field source


B3: 1.5

Outward pinholes

B7: 4.4

Outward pinholes


Outward pinholes


B4: 2.0

Coron pupil 1

I4: 2.4-2.6

Coron pupil 1


Coron pupil 1


I1: 1.55-1.7

Coron pupil 2

I5: 2.8-3.2

Coron pupil 2


Coron pupil 2


I2: 1.7-1.94

HeI 1.083 µm

I6: 3.2-3.5



Cal pattern 1


I3: 2.0-2.22

WFS-1 (Wavefront Sensing)

I7-CO2: 4.3



Cal pattern 2


B8: 0.8-1.0


I8-CO: 4.6



Cal pattern 3


Hα: 0.656


Brα: 4.05



Cal pattern 4


[Fell] 1.64


H2: 2.41





Pα: 1.875


H2: 2.56





H2: 2.12


H2: 4.69




Table 8: Specification of NIRCam filters and pupils


Figure 27: Illustration of the NIRCam instrument (image credit: NASA)

The expected point-source sensitivity is ~3.5 nJy for wavelengths from 0.7 - 5 µm in a 100,000 second exposure at a SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) of 10. All ten detectors arrays needed for NIRCam are using Teledyne Technologies (former Rockwell Scientific )HgCdTe 2k x 2k devices (HAWAII-2RG detector technology, also referred to as H2RG). The short wavelength bands will be sampled at 4096 x 4096 pixels (0.0317 arcsec/pixel), while the long wavelength bands are being sampled by 2048 x 2048 pixels (0.0648 arcsec/pixel). The focal plane array includes detector and cryogenic electronics. 51) 52)

Note: The term “Jy” refers to the “Jansky,” the unit of radio‐wave emission strength, in honor of Karl G. Jansky (1905‐1950) an American engineer whose discovery of radio waves (1931) from an extraterrestrial source inaugurated the development of radio astronomy. Jansky published his findings in 1932 while working at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ.
The “Jy” is a unit of radiative flux density (or radio‐wave emission strength) which is commonly used in radio and infrared astronomy. 1 Jy = 10‐26 W/(m2 Hz). The units of Jy (Hz)‐1/2 then refer to the noise power.


Figure 28: This new 2Kx2K pixel NIRCam sensor chip assembly incorporates improved barrier layers to increase the ground storage lifetime (image credit,NASA, Bernie Rauscher, “JWST Detector Update,” Ref. 43)

Legend to Figure 28: The Teledyne H2RG detectors are being used in 3 instruments of JWST, namely in NIRCam, NIRSpec, and in FGS/NIRISS.

The NIRCam coronagraph: Each NIRCam module will be equipped with a simple Lyot coronagraph consisting of a selection of focal plane occulters and pupil masks (Lyot stops). The requirements are:

1) Provide imaging to within 0.6 arcsec (4λ/D) of the star at λ = 4.6 μm and to within 0.3 arcsec at λ = 2.1 μm for the detection of extrasolar planets seen in emission.

2) Provide imaging to within 0.8 arcsec (6λ/D) of the star at λ = 4.3 μm, 0.64 arcsec at λ = 3.35 μm, and 0.4 arcsec at λ = 2.1 μm for observations of circumstellar disks seen in reflected light.

3) The occulters must be rigidly mounted and must not interfere with imaging during non-coronagraphic observations, requiring placement outside the normal field of view.

4) Ideally, suppress the diffraction pattern produced by the JWST obscurations to a level equal to or below the scattered light created by the uncorrectable optical surface errors, given the budgeted ~131 nm rms of wavefront error prior to the coronagraphic occulters.

5) Provide sufficient throughput to image 1 Gyr-old Jupiter-mass planets around the nearest late-type stars with 1-2 hours of exposure time.

6) Tolerate 2% pupil misalignments due to pupil wheel positioning errors and telescope-to-instrument rotational offsets.

7) Tolerate 10-40 marcsec (milliarcsecond) of pointing error at λ = 4.6 μm without a significant decrease in performance.

NIRCam status:

• Jan. 6, 2015: The MIRCam instrument surpassed expectations during tests in late 2014. NIRCam performed significantly better than requirements during the first integrated, cryogenic testing program at GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center), Maryland. 53)

- In April 2014, NASA installed the instrument alongside others in the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module), which finished cryogenic and vacuum testing late last year.

• Flight NIRCam ready for integration into ISIM (Ref. 174).

NIRSpec (Near-Infrared multi-object Spectrograph)

NIRSpec is funded by ESA (Project Scientist: Peter Jakobsen of ESA/ESTEC) with Airbus Defince and Space (formerly EADS Astrium GmbH) as prime instrument contractor (the detector arrays and a microshutter are supplied by NASA/GSFC). The key objectives are the study of galaxy formation, clustering, chemical abundances, star formation, and kinematics, as well as active galactic nuclei, young stellar clusters, and measurements of the initial mass function of stars (IMF). 54) 55) 56) 57) 58) 59) 60)

The region of sky to be observed is transferred from the JWST optical telescope element (OTE) to the spectrograph aperture focal plane (AFP) by a pick-off mirror (POM) and a system of foreoptics which includes a filter wheel for selecting band passes and introducing internal calibration sources. The nominal scale at the AFP is 2.516 arcsec/mm.


Figure 29: CAD layout of the NIRSpec instrument with outer shroud removed (image credit: ESA)

The NIRSpec baseline design uses a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS), consisting of an array of about 1000 x 500 microshutters, to select hundreds of different objects in a single field of view.

The NIRSpec instrument will be the first slit-based astronomical MOS (Multi-Object Spectrograph) in space providing spectra of faint objects over the near-infrared 1.0-5.0 µm wavelength range at spectral resolutions of R=100, R=1000 and R=2700. The instrument's all-reflective wide-field optics, together with its novel MEMS-based programmable microshutter array slit selection device and its large format low-noise HgCdTe detector arrays (2 detectors of 2 k x 2 k pixels), combine to allow simultaneous observations of > 100 objects within a FOV of 3.4 arcmin x 3.6 arcmin with unprecedented sensitivity. 61) 62) 63)


Figure 30: Schematic layout of the NIRSpec optics (image credit: ESA)

NIRSpec is required to select various spectral band widths and split these up into its comprised wavelengths. These functions are achieved by the FWA (Filter Wheel Assembly) and the GWA (Grating Wheel Assembly). The filters of the FWA select a different bandwidth of the spectrum each while the gratings on the GWA yield specific diffractive characteristic for spectral segmentation. A high spectral sensitivity as well as the ability to detect the spectra of various objects at the same time result in high requirements regarding the positioning accuracy of the optics of both mechanisms in order to link the detected spectra to the 2-dimensional images of the observed objects. 64)

The spectrometer uses diffractive gratings to spatially separate the incoming light and analyze several objects simultaneously. The NIRSpec mechanism yields 6 different gratings and one prism to work with various spectral resolutions and in different ranges of the infrared spectrum. A TAM (Target Acquisition Mirror) allows allocation of the spectra and the corresponding stellar objects. These 8 optical elements are integrated on a GWA (Grating Wheel Assembly) as shown in Figure 31. It exchanges the diffractive optic within the instrument's beam path with high precision to allow correlation of different spectra taken from the same object.

To avoid the overlap of various orders of diffraction on the detector, a set of spectral filters was designed to select the desired wavelength range. These filters are mounted on a mechanism quite similar to the GWA. It moves one filter into the beam path to build a fitting combination of grating in use and preselected range of wavelength. This FWA (Filter Wheel Assembly) holds four edge filters and two band filters for various wavelengths, one clear filter for target acquisition and a mirror assembly for in-orbit calibration and pupil alignment during integration of the mechanism (Figure 32).


Figure 31: Illustration of the GWA mechanism (image credit: Carl-Zeiss Optronics)


Figure 32: Illustration of the FWA mechanism (image credit: Carl-Zeiss Optronics)

Mechanical alignment: Since both FWA and GWA are mechanisms actively influencing the beam path of the instrument, precise and repeatable alignment of the currently used optic, it is essential to ensure a stable image on the detector. Especially the GWA alignment is crucial since its optic works in reflection where every tilt of the optic is carried over directly into the alignment of the instrument. The FWA on the other hand uses planar elements working in transmission inducing but a fraction of their misalignment into an aberration of the beam (Ref. 64).

NIRSpec includes also an IFU (Integral Field Unit) device with the objective to study of the dynamics of high redshift galaxies. This device provides in addition a NIRSpec backup acquisition mode for spectroscopy. The IFU permits a 2-D spectral characterization of astronomical objects with unprecedented depths, especially in the 2-5 µm wavelength range. The IFU covers a FOV of 3 arcsec x 3 arcsec and provides five fixed slits for detailed spectroscopic studies of single objects. The NIRSpec-IFU is expected to be capable of reaching a continuum flux of 20 nJy (AB>28) in R=100 mode, and a line flux of 6 x 10-19 erg s-1 cm-2 in R=1000 mode at an SNR> 3 in an exposure period of 104 s.

The FPA (Focal Plane Array) consists of sub-units, each 2 k x 2 k, forming an array of 2 k x 4 k sampled at 100 marcsec (milliarcsecond) pixels. The detectors are thinned HgCdTe arrays (ASICs) built by the Rockwell Science Center and referred to as SIDECAR (System for Image Digitization, Enhancement, Control and Retrieval). Each of the two ASICs has 2048 x 2048 pixels, pixel size of 18 µm, pixel scale = 100 mas (micro arcseconds), the data are locally digitized. 65)

The NIRSpec also contains a calibration unit with a number of continuum and line sources.


Figure 33: Illustration of a MSA (Microshutter Array) assembly at left and the FPA SIDECAR ASIC at right, (image credit: NASA)

Multiobject spectroscopy: A special MEMS device, referred to as MSA (MicroShutter Array), is being developed at NASA/GSFC to be used as a programmable field selector for NIRSpec. The objective is to provide a means to observe numerous objects simultaneously and to eliminate the confusion caused by all other sources. MSA consists of microshutter arrays arranged in a 2 x 2 quadrant mosaic. Each quadrant represents a closely packed array of 175 x 384 of shutters each of which may be addressed independently - allowing only the light from objects of interest into the instrument. The MSA covers a FOV of 3.6 arcmin x 3.6 arcmin (each microshutter has a FOV of 0.2 x 0.4 arcsec) - allowing the simultaneous observation of about 100 objects.

The microshutters themselves are MEMS devices produced on a thin silicon nitride membrane on 100 µm x 200 µm pitch (spectral x spatial direction). They are actuated magnetically and latched and addressed electrostatically. The MSA object selection feature represents an enabling technology development with a first introduction in spaceborne astronomy. 66)


Figure 34: Schematic layout of the microshutter assembly (image credit: NASA, ESA)

The MSA microshutter array consists of ust under a quarter of a million individually controlled microshutters. By programming the array to only open those shutters coinciding with pre-selected objects of interest, light from these objects is isolated and directed to the spectroscopic stage of NIRSpec to produce the spectra.


Figure 35: Photo of NASA/GSFC engineers inspecting an MSA with a low light test (image credit: GSFC, Chris Gunn, ESA) 67) 68)

Legend to Figure 35: The inspection light source is held by the technician at the front of the picture. Four array quadrants are located within the octagonal frame in the center of a titanium mosaic base plate.

The team, led by Principal Investigator Harvey Moseley of GSFC has demonstrated that electrostatically actuated microshutter arrays — that is, those activated by applying an specific voltage — are as functional as the current technology’s magnetically activated arrays. This advance makes them a highly attractive capability for potential Explorer-class missions designed to perform multi-object observations. 69)

Considered among the most innovative technologies to fly on the Webb telescope, the microshutter assembly is created from MEMS technologies and comprises thousands of tiny shutters, each about the width of a human hair. Assembled on four postage-size grids or arrays, the 250,000 shutters open or close individually to allow only the light from targeted objects to enter Webb’s NIRSpec, which will help identify types of stars and gases and measure their distances and motions. Because Webb will observe faint, far-away objects, it will take as long as a week for NIRSpec to gather enough light to obtain good spectra.


Figure 36: Alternate view of the NIRSpec instrument (ESA, NASA)

The NIRSpec instrument has a size of about 1.90 m x 1.3 m x 0.7 m and an estimated mass of about 196 kg.


Figure 37: Photo of the NIRSpec engineering test unit in Oct. 2009 (image credit: ESA)

The spectrograph structure is built from silicon carbide (SiC) - a monolithic ceramic providing the properties to meet the extremely high demands for dimensional stability and geometrical accuracy for the optical assembly. Geometrical distortions between NIRSpec and the ISIM, generated by very high temperature differences between cryogenic operational and ambient on ground environment are balanced by so called Kinematic Mounts made from titanium alloy. The need to exchange these parts without losing optical performance of the already aligned instrument led to the development of a highly sophisticated exchange procedure. 70)

The existing Kinematic Mounts already integrated on the Flight Model of NIRSpec were declared non-flight-worthy due to a detection of a manufacturing issue within the tapered areas, dedicated for flexural bending. Consequently a remanufacturing of the three OBKs (Optical Bench Kinematic Mounts) was decided and the development of an exchange philosophy considering all aspects of safety and technical requirements was developed in a joint team of ESA and Airbus Defence and Space.

Due to the detailed planning, preparation and practice, the actual exchange on the NIRSpec flight hardware was performed in five days without any procedure variation. The exchange was successfully performed as trained before.

The dye penetrant investigations performed in between the individual OBK exchange activities confirmed no damage of the SiC interfaces of the OBBP (Optical Bench Base Plate). These results were backed by acoustic monitoring which showed that no shock was introduced and no crack was initiated inside the SiC structure.

The results of the online optical measurements showed that the relative position and the PAR (Pupil Alignment Reference) remained stable within the measurement accuracy better than 3 acrsec angular and 10 µm relative PAR center displacement.

Status of NIRSpec:

• July 20, 2015: Engineers from Airbus and ESA (European Space Agency) work inside NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s large clean room to remove the cover on Webb Telescope’s NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrometer) instrument in preparation for the replacement of the MSA (Micro Shutter Array) and the FPA (Focal Plane Assembly). 71)

• Feb. 2015: The past two months have seen a team of engineers engaged in the intricate activity of replacing key components of the NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) on the James Webb Space Telescope. The instrument is now ready for the next series of extensive environmental tests devised to ensure that JWST's instruments can withstand the stresses and strains of launch and operation in space. 72) 73) 74)

- In the summer of 2014, the JWST Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM), fitted with all four instruments (NIRSpec, MIRI, NIRCam, and FGS/NIRISS), successfully completed cryogenic testing in a '24/7' campaign that lasted 116 days.

- However, the positive outcome of this important test campaign did not mean that ISIM and the instruments were ready for integration onto JWST's telescope. It has been known for over a year that additional work would be necessary to get some of the instruments into their final flight configuration. As a consequence, a period of a few months was allocated for these activities, immediately after the completion of the cryogenic test campaign.

- In particular, NIRSpec needed to have its detectors, microshutter assembly and optical assembly cover replaced. Also, the NIRCAM and FGS/NIRISS teams had to exchange some components in their instruments. MIRI was the only instrument that remained integrated with the ISIM. However, MIRI's configuration was also updated by installing the flight model cooler Cold Head Assembly (CHA) and exchanging some of the cooler lines and their supports.

- The first generation of JWST’s highly sensitive near-infrared detectors were found to suffer from a design flaw that resulted in a progressive degradation of their performance. New detectors have now been installed in all three near-infrared instruments.

- Another crucial component of NIRSpec are its MSA (Microshutter Assembly), a new technology developed for JWST by NASA. - One of the defining and pioneering features of NIRSpec is its ability to analyze the light from more than 100 astronomical objects at the same time. This is made possible by an assembly of four microshutter arrays, totalling almost a quarter of a million individual shutters.

- One of the defining and pioneering features of NIRSpec is its ability to analyze the light from more than 100 astronomical objects at the same time. This is made possible by an assembly of four MSAs, totalling almost a quarter of a million individual shutters.

- The cryogenic test revealed that several thousand of the individual microshutters had become inoperable and could not be opened. This susceptibility to acoustic noise was not expected and had gone undetected because of the difficulty of reproducing the environment to which the microshutters are actually subjected in this instrument. As a result of this problem, the performance of the microshutters in NIRSpec was strongly degraded. The NIRSpec Engineering Test Unit (ETU) provided the most realistic test environment for the MSA. These various tests provided a wealth of information that helped NASA to identify the cause of the 'failed closed' shutters issue.

- The new MSA contains three 'original design' arrays and one 'new design' array. In addition to most arrays being pre-screened at array level, the complete new MSA flight model was acoustically tested in the NIRSpec ETU before it was installed in the flight version of NIRSpec.

• April 4, 2014: An important milestone for JWST was passed on 25 March with the installation of the NIRSpec instrument on the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) at NASA/GSFC. All four science instruments are now in place on the ISIM, ready for the next series of tests. 75)

• Feb. 2014: The NIRSpec instrument is being installed on the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) at Goddard in preparation for an extensive series of tests with the full instrument complement. In addition, new detectors have been selected for NIRSpec, to be installed later this year. 76)

• Sept. 30, 2013: The NIRSpec instrument has arrived at the NASA/GSFC. 77)

• In early September 2013, the NIRSpec instrument, built by Astrium GmbH, was formally handed over to ESA. This marks an important milestone in Europe’s contribution to the JWST mission. Having undergone rigorous testing in Europe, NIRSpec will be shipped to NASA later this month for integration into JWST’s instrument module, followed by further testing and calibration as the whole observatory is built up. 78)

MIRI (Mid-Infrared Camera-Spectrograph)

MIRI is a joint instrument development of NASA and ESA. The instrument optics module and optical bench will be provided by the European MIRI Consortium funded by the ESA member states. NASA/JPL will provide the remainder of the instrument, notably the detector and cryostat subsystems. Within the joint instrument science team, Gillian S. Wright of the UKATC (UK Astronomy Technology Center), Edinburgh, is the PI of the European MIRI Consortium while George H. Rieke at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona (UA) is the MIRI PI for NASA. ESA coordinates the activities of the European MIRI Consortium (21 institutes from 10 countries) while EADS Astrium Ltd. functions as the main instrument contractor. The MIRI instrument has a mass of ~ 103 kg. 79) 80) 81) 82) 83) 84) 85) 86) 87)

Note: The ROE (Royal Observatory Edinburgh) comprises the UKTAC (UK Astronomy Technology Center) of the Science and Technology Facility Council (STSC), the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Edinburgh and the ROE Visitor Center.

Further participating European organizations in the MIRI project are: Astron, The Netherlands; CCLRC, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), UK; CEA Service d'Astrophysique, Saclay, France; Centre Spatial De Liège, Belgium; CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), Spain; DSRI (Danish Space Research Institute), Denmark; Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Ireland; IAS (Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale), Orsay, France; INTA (Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial), Spain; LAM (Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille), France; MPIA (Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie), Heidelberg, Germany; Observatoire de Paris, France; PSI (Paul Scherrer Institut), Switzerland; University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; University of Cologne, Germany; University of Leicester, UK; University of Leiden, The Netherlands; University of Leuven, Belgium; University of Stockholm, Sweden.

As part of the European cooperation with NASA on the JWST program, MIRI was set up as a 50 : 50 partnership between ESA and NASA, with the European Consortium (EC) in charge of the optical bench assembly and the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in charge of the detector system, the cooling system, and the flight software (Figure 38). In addition to the responsibilities shown, GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) provides the harness between the optical module and the ICE (Instrument Control Electronics). The formal delivery of the MIRI Optical System, including the detectors chain provided by JPL, to NASA is the responsibility of ESA.


Figure 38: Overview of MIRI instrument concept, contributions, interfaces and responsibilities (image credit: ESA, NASA)

In contrast to other science missions, where each scientific instrument has its own dedicated computer, on JWST there is one unit for all instruments where the flight software for each instrument resides – the ICDH (Instrument Control and Data Handling) electronics. Failure modes and event upsets are handled in this unit. The ICDH interfaces via an IEEE-1553B (MIL-STD-1553B) bus to the dedicated control electronics for the instrument mechanisms (ICE) and, via a remote services unit, for the FPE (Focal Plane Electronics) unit as shown in Figure 39.


Figure 39: Functional block diagram of MIRI optical and cooler subsystem interfaces (image credit: MIRI consortium)

MIRI's principal science objectives relate to the origin and evolution of all cosmic constituents, in particular to galaxy formation, star formation, and planet formation on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. MIRI is to provide imaging, coronagraphy and low- and medium-resolution spectroscopy in the mid-infrared band (the 5-28 µm), representing a broad wavelength response in the thermal infrared. To achieve an optimized detection sensitivity, MIRI requires a high photon conversion efficiency as well as spectral and spatial passbands matched to the observation targets.

The MIRI design features an imager and a dual spectrometer (Figure 41). Light enters from the telescope through the IOC (Input Optics and Calibration) module. The IOC is part of the MIRI Optical Bench Assembly. It is designed to pick-off the MIRI field of view from the JWST Fine Steering Mirror and to relay the relevant parts of this FOV into the spectrometer and into the imager subsystems. The IOC additionally provides in-flight calibration fluxes to the imager and is mounted onto the MIRI primary structure (deck) and is operated at about 6 K. The IOC is being provided by CSL (Centre Spatial de Liege) of Liege University, Belgium.

The imager and the two spectrometer modules are based on all reflecting designs. The optical configuration of MIRI supports four science modes:

1) Photometric imaging in a number of bands from 5.6-25.5 µm within a FOV of 1.9 arcmin x 1.4 arcmin

2) Coronagraphy with a spectral range 10-27 µm in 4 bands (10.65, 11.4, 15.5, and 23 µm)

3) Low-resolution (R = 100) resolving power slit spectroscopy of single objects in the spectral range 5-11 µm

4) Medium-resolution (~100 km/s velocity resolution) integral field spectroscopy in the spectral range 5-28.5 µm over FOVs growing with wavelength from 3.5 x 3.5 to 7 arcsec x 7 arcsec.


Figure 40: The MIRI optics module (image credit: MIRI consortium)

The optical concept splits the instrument into two separate channels operating over the 5 to 28 µm wavelength range, one for imaging (over a 1.9 x 1.4 arcmin FOV) and one for medium resolution spectroscopy (up to 8 x 8 arcmin FOV). The functional split into two parts was chosen because it was found that it simplified the internal optical interfaces, and the complexity of the layout and of the mechanisms. Both the imager and spectrometer channels are fed by common optics from a single pick-off mirror placed close to the telescope focal plane, and fed also by a common calibration subsystem. - The pick-off mirror in front of the JWST OTE focal plane directs the MIRI FOV towards the imager. A small fold mirror adjacent to the imager light path picks off the small (up to 8 x 8 arcsec) FOV of the spectrometer. A second tilting fold in the spectrometer optical path is used to select either light from the telescope or from the MIRI calibration system.


Figure 41: MIRI instrument optical bench assembly and key subsystem layout (image credit: MIRI consortium)

The MIRI spectrometer is comprised of two parts, the SPO (Spectrometer Pre-Optics), built by UKATC, and the SMO (Spectrometer Main Optics), built by Astron, The Netherlands. The two parts of the spectrometer combine together using a spectrograph filter wheel which is made by MPIA (Max Planck Institute of Astronomy). The SPO houses the image slicers and the dichroic/grating wheels. Light enters the SPO directly from the IOC. Light passes from the image slicer, through a series of mirrors, to the FPM. The FPM in turn is located in the SMO. 88) 89)


Figure 42: Main optics of the MIRI spectrometer (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)


Figure 43: Illustration of the SPO (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)

The light is divided into four spectral ranges by the dichroics, and two of these ranges are imaged onto each of the two detector arrays. Along the way to the appropriate array, the light is dispersed by a diffraction grating. The gratings are mounted on mechanical turrets with three for each spectral range. A full spectrum is obtained by taking exposures at the three settings of each mechanical turret - the turrets are ganged together and operated with a single mechanism, and the dichroics allow the same spot on the sky to be distributed to all four spectrometer arms. Thus, only three exposures are required to obtain a complete spectrum.






Nr of slices (N)





Wavelength range (µm)





Slice width (arcsec)
Pixel size (arcsec)





FOV (arcsec)

3 x 3.87

3.5 x 4.42

5.2 x 6.19

6.7 x 7.73

Resolving power





Table 9: Summary of imager channels

The imager module has a combined FOV for the imager and coronagraph/low-resolution spectrometer modes. The coronagraph masks are placed at a fixed location on one edge of the imager field.


Figure 44: Schematic configuration of the MIRI imager module (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)


Figure 45: Illustration of the MIRI imager (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)


Figure 46: Illustration of the coronagraph (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)

The instrument uses phase mask coronagraphs. They reject the light of a central source by introducing phase shifts using a quadrant-design plate at the instrument input focal plane. These shifts cause the light from the source to interfere destructively at the detector array. Unlike conventional occulting Lyot coronagraphs, phase plates allow measurements to be obtained very close to the central object. Further from the central object, they provide performance similar to that of a conventional occulting coronagraph. The 4-quadrant phase mask is dividing an Airy disk (image of a point source) in the center of the field into 4 domains; and it applies a phase difference of p to two of them, so that the image is eliminated by destructive interference.

The dichroic filter wheel comprises three working positions to move gratings and dichroics simultaneously. Each is located on separate wheel discs. The two wheels feed light in to the four spectrometer channels inside MIRI.


Figure 47: Scheme of the spectrograph filter wheel (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)


Figure 48: Illustration of the dichroic wheel (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)

The filter wheel has 18 positions: 10 imaging filters, 4 coronagraphic diaphragms/filters, 1 neutral density filter, 1 double prism, 1 lens and 1 clear/blind position (counterweight of prism). The system has to operate in the cryo-vacuum of 7 K up to 10 years. The design is of ISOPHOT wheel mechanisms heritage flown on ESA's ISO (Infrared Space Observatory) mission. The filter wheel assembly houses a wheel disc carrying all the optical elements. Rotation is realized by a central two-phase torque motor (allows for bi-directional movement).


Figure 49: Illustration of the filter wheel (image credit: MIRI European Consortium)

The FPS (Focal Plane System) consists of three FPM (Focal Plane Module) units (two in the spectrometer and one in the imager), a single FPE (Focal Plane Electronics) unit, and a set of low noise FPE/FPM cryogenic harnesses that connect the FPMs to the FPE. Each FPM houses a single SCA (Sensor Chip Assembly) containing a 1024 x 1024 Si:As IBC detector array and readout electronics. The IBC (Impurity Band Conduction) technology of Raytheon Vision Systems has been selected for very sensitive, cryogenically cooled infrared detectors. These arrays are manufactured as a hybrid structure, referred to as SCA (Sensor Chip Assembly), consisting of a detector array connected with indium bumps to a ROIC (Readout Integrated Circuit). The Si:As IBC detector material offers the highest performance for longwave detection in low-background systems. 90) 91)

Wavelength band (µm)

Support mode

Sensitivity (10σ, 10,000 s)



0.19 mJy



1.4 mJy



29 Jy


Line spectroscopy

1.2 x 10-20 W m-2


Line spectroscopy

5.6 x 10-20 W m-2

Table 10: Overview of expected MIRI sensitivities


Figure 50: Schematic of the silicon detector array (image credit: JPL)


Figure 51: The FPM of MIRI (image credit: JPL)

MIRI cryocooler: The MIRI instrument (optical bench, all focal planes) is cooled to ~7 K by a super-frigid mechanical helium cryocooler system of NASA/JPL built by NGAS (Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems), Redondo Beach, CA. The cryocooling is achieved by means of a cryostat. Two hydrogen vessels are being used, the larger one for the optical bench, and the smaller one for the detectors. The vessels are designed to hold 1000 liter of solid hydrogen at 7 K.

Active cooling is provided by a dedicated three stage Stirling-cycle PT (Pulse-Tube) to precool a circulating helium flow loop, with a Joule-Thomson (JT) expansion stage to provide continuous cooling to 6.2 K to a single point on the MIRI optical bench. Significant development of the cryocooler occurred as part of the ACTDP (Advanced Cryocooler Technology Development Program) prior to selection as the flight cryocooler for MIRI. 92) 93) 94)


Figure 52: Block diagram of the ACTDP design applied to the MIRI cooler subsystem; the dark lines show the He gas flow in the JT cooler loop (image credit: NGAS)


Figure 53: Illustration of the MIRI cryocooler elements (image credit: NGAS, UA, Ref. 87)


Figure 54: Schematic view of the distributed MIRI cryocooler subsystem (image credit: NGAS)

Legend to Figure 54: The drawing on the left side shows the spacecraft bus (bottom) and the OTE. The CCA (Cooler Compressor Assembly) and the CHA (Cold Head Assembly) are shown as expanded CAD renderings on the right hand side. The CCA is shown in context of the spacecraft bus and tower structures in the immediate vicinity. The CCE (Cryocooler Control Electronics) and the CTA (Cooler Tower Assembly) are not shown.

Status of MIRI:

• Feb. 2014: MIRI has performed beautifully during its first cryo-vacuum test campaign carried out at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center towards the end of 2013. An examination of data recorded during those tests confirms that the instrument is in good health and performing well. 95)

• July 2013: The ISIM, with the two instruments (MIRI and FGS/NIRISS), is now being prepared for the first series of cryogenic tests, planned for later this summer. These will include optical, electrical and electromagnetic interference tests, all under cold vacuum conditions. The tests will be conducted in the SES (Space Environment Simulator) vacuum chamber at GSFC. 96)

• On April 29, 2013, MIRI was the second instrument to be installed into the ISIM (after FGS/NIRISS).

• MIRI arrived at GSFC on 28 May 2012, having been despatched from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom, where it had been assembled. Engineers from ESA, the MIRI European Consortium and NASA were on hand to take delivery of this, the first of JWST's four instruments to arrive at GSFC.

FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor):

The FGS is a sensitive camera that provides dedicated, mission-critical support for the observatory's ACS (Attitude Control System). The camera can image two adjacent fields of view, each approximately 2.4 arcmin x 2.4 arcmin in size, and can also be configured to read out small subarrays (8 x 8 pixels) at a rate of 16 times/s. Even with these short integration times, the FGS is sensitive enough to reach 58 µJy at 1.25 µm (~Jab = 19.5). This combination of sky coverage and sensitivity ensures that an appropriate guide star can be found with 95% probability at any point in the sky, including high galactic latitudes.

The objectives of FGS are to provide constant directional data for the telescope, enabling it to maintain stability for improved image acquisition. Specific requirements are: 97) 98)

1) To obtain images for target acquisition. Full-frame images are used to identify star fields by correlating the observed brightness and position of sources with the properties of cataloged objects selected by the observation planning software.

2) To acquire preselected guide stars. During acquisition, a guide star is first centered in an 8 x 8 pixel window. Small angle maneuvers are then executed to translate this window to a pre-specified location within the FOV, so that an observation with one of the science instruments will be oriented correctly.

3) To provide the ACS with centroid measurements of the guide stars at an update rate of 16 Hz. These measurements will be used to enable stable pointing at the milli-arcsecond level.

Note: In the course of building and testing of the TFI (Tunable Filter Imager) flight model, numerous technical issues arose with unforeseeable length of required mitigation effort. In addition to that, emerging new science priorities caused that in summer of 2011 a decision was taken to replace TFI with a new instrument, called NIRISS (Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph). 99) 100)

FGS/NIRISS (Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph):

FGS is one of the four science instruments on board the JWST, a contribution of CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The FGS-NIRISS science team is jointly led by John Hutchings of NRC (National Research Council) of Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and René Doyon, University of Montréal. - The FGS consists of two Guider channels and one Near-Infrared Slitless Spectrometer (NIRISS) channel. COM DEV Space Systems of Ottawa Canada is CSA’s prime contractor for the FGS instrument. The NIRISS channel makes use of grisms and filters optimized for first-light science and exo-planet observations. This is a recent change in the configuration of the instrument which until the summer of 2011 made use of a tunable filter. The block diagram of the updated instrument configuration is shown in Figure 55. 101) 102)


Figure 55: Block diagram of the FGS (image credit: CSA, ComDev Ltd.)

The FGS prime function is to work with the ACS (Attitude Control Subsystem) of the Observatory to provide fine guiding. The guiding side of FGS (FGS-Guider) is a near-infrared (IR) camera operating in broadband light over the full 0.6-5 µm bandpass of its two Hawaii-2RG detectors. The FGS-Guider features an all reflective optical design with two redundant 2.3 arcmin x 2.3 arcmin FOV each capable of reading a small (8 x 8) subarray window to select any star in the FOV and to report its centroid every 64 ms (16 Hz) to the ACS, which in turn sends an error signal to the fine steering mirror of the telescope. At this sampling rate, the FGS-Guider is required to have a NEA (Noise Equivalent Angle) less than 4 marcsec (one axis) on a star with an integrated signal of 800 electrons, equivalent to approximately a JAB = 19:5 star. This limiting magnitude guarantees more than 95% of the sky coverage with at least three stars within the FGS-Guider FOV. 103) 104)

FGS features two modules: an infrared camera dedicated to fine guiding of the observatory and a science camera module, the NIRISS (Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) covering the wavelength range between 0.7 and 5.0 µm with a FOV of 2.2 arcmin x2.2 arcmin.

A schematic optical layout of NIRISS is shown in Figure 56. The optical design is an all reflective design with gold-coated diamond-turned aluminum mirrors. The average WFE ( Wavefront Error) over the FOV of the instrument (telescope excluded) is less than 79 nm RMS.


Figure 56: NIRISS optical layout. The NIRISS optical configuration is identical to the old TFI one except that the etalon is no longer present and that the dual wheel has been repopulated with new filters and grisms as shown in Figure 57 (image credit: CSA, ComDev Ltd.)

NIRISS has a dual pupil and filter wheel assembly. Collimated light first passes through a selected position in the pupil wheel and then through the selected position in the filter wheel. Figure 57 shows the elements of the pupil and filter wheels. The PAR (Pupil Alignment Reference) shown in Figure 1 is used during ground testing to verify the positioning of NIRISS in the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module). Its presence decreases the throughput of the "CLEARP" element by about 10%. 105)

The Dual Wheel is comprised of pupil and filter wheels, bearings, gears, static hub, rear motor/resolver plate and the support bracket. The equipment includes drive motors, resolvers and variable reluctance sensors. Each wheel (~280 mm diameter) is capable of rotating the optical elements to one of 9 desired positions, supported by a preloaded duplex pair of angular contact bearings. All moving parts use MoS2 dry lubricants compatible with the cryogenic environment. A stepper motor with a single-stage planetary gearhead is used to drive each wheel independently, through a reduction gear train. The optical parts are held in place by a metallic spring gasket with a precision holder machined from Ti 6Al-4V ELI annealed, stress-relieved prior to final machining and cryo-cycled prior to installing optical elements. A black tiodize coating is used for stray light control. 106) 107)


Figure 57: NIRISS dual wheel optical elements (image credit: CSA, COM DEV Ltd.)

Detector: The NIRISS detector consists of a single SCA (Sensor Chip Assembly) with the following characteristics:

- 2048 x 2048 pixel HgCdTe array. Each pixel is 18 microns on a side.

- Dark rate: < 0.02 e-/s

- Noise: 23 e- (correlated double sample)

- Gain: 1.5 e-/ADU

- 2.2 arcmin x 2.2 arcmin FOV

- Plate scale in x: 0.0654 arcsec/pixel; plate scale in y: 0.0658 arcsec/pixel

• The 2048 x 2048 pixels of the SCA are divided into 2040 x 2040 photosensitive pixels and a 4-pixel wide border of non-photosensitive reference pixels around the outside perimeter. The reference pixels do not respond to light, but are sampled and digitized in exactly the same way as the light sensitive pixels. The reference pixels can be used to monitor and remove various low-frequency bias drifts.

• The composition of the detector is tuned to provide a long-wavelength cutoff at approximately 5.3 microns.

• The SCA is fabricated and packaged into a FPA (Focal Plane Assembly ) that includes a HAWAII-2RG readout integrated circuit (ROIC), which is controlled by a SIDECAR ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit). The ASIC is a custom-built chip that clocks the array, sets the bias voltages, and performs the analog-to-digital conversion of the pixel voltages.

• The SCA is fabricated and packaged into a focal-plane assembly (FPA) that includes a HAWAII-2RG readout integrated circuit (ROIC), which is controlled by a SIDECAR Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). The ASIC is a custom-built chip that clocks the array, sets the bias voltages, and performs the analog-to-digital conversion of the pixel voltages.

• A full-frame read of the SCA is digitized through four readout amplifiers. Each amplifier reads a strip that is 512 x 2048 pixels. 108)


Figure 58: Schematic view of the NIRISS SCA (image credit: STScI)

Observation modes: NIRISS has four observing modes (Ref. 103):

1) BBI (Broadband Imaging) featuring seven of the eight NIRCam broadband filters

2) Low resolution WFSS (Wide-Field Slitless Spectroscopy) at a resolving power of ~150 between 1 and 2.5 µm

3) Medium-resolution SOSS (Single-Object Spectroscopy). The single-object cross-dispersed slitless spectroscopy enabling simultaneous wavelength coverage between 0.7 and 2.5 µm at R~660, a mode optimized for transit spectroscopy of relatively bright (J > 7) stars

4) sparse AMI (Aperture Interferometric Imaging) between 3.8 and 4.8 µm enabling high-contrast (~ 10-4) imaging of M < 8 point sources at angular separations between 70 and 500 marcsec.

Broadband imaging: NIRISS offers the same broadband imaging capability as NIRCam except that NIRISS does not carry the NIRCam F070W filter. The new blocking filters procured for NIRISS, used in combination with NIRCam short wavelength fitters, have measured inband transmission of 95% typically. As shown in Figure 59, NIRISS and NIRCam are predicted to have similar sensitivities within 10%. This sensitivity calculation takes into account the coarser pixel sampling (65 marcsec) of NIRISS at short wavelengths compared to NIRCam (32 marcsec). NIRISS is not expected to be used for broadband imaging unless parallel observing is eventually offered by the Observatory. If so, NIRISS could be easily used in parallel with NIRCam for a wide variety of programs including deep extragalactic surveys aiming at probing the galaxy population of the early universe.


Figure 59: Predicted NIRISS broadband imaging sensitivity (10σ, 104s) compared to NIRCam (image credit: CSA, COM DEV Ltd.)

WFSS (Wide-Field Slitless Spectroscopy): The WFSS mode of NIRISS operation is optimized for Ly α emitters (1-2.5 µm) and makes use of a pair of grisms GR150V and GR150H. In order to break wavelength-position degeneracy two prisms are at 90º angle to each other and are used in two separate imaging sessions. In this scheme, the intersection of the two perpendicular dispersion lines indicates undeviated wavelength and true sky position of the source.

It is implemented through the two GR150R & GR150C grisms operated in slitless mode at R = 150 (2 pixels), enabling low-resolution multi-object spectroscopy between 1 and 2.5 µm in first order. The grisms are resin-replicated on a low refractive index material (Infrasil 301) to minimize Fresnel loss. They were manufactured by Bach Research. The peak efficiency of a flight-like GR150 grism, i.e. manufactured with the same replication process (same substrate prism, same master), was measured to be ~80% (see Figure 60). Wavefront error measured at 90 K on both grism surfaces showed some distortion due to stress induced by CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion) mismatch between the resin and the glass substrate. However, within uncertainties, the distortion was measured to be identical on both sides at 90 K. This distortion effectively turns the grism into a weak meniscus lens which, to first order, has no defocus. Cryogenic (90 K) monochromatic PSF measurements were also secured to estimate the TWFE (Transmitted Wavefront Error) of the GR150 grisms; the results indicate that they should have less than 30 nm (RMS) of TWFE. The image quality in the WFSS mode is therefore expected to be as good as in broadband imaging i.e. with a typical Strehl ratio of ~0.5 at 1.3 µm.


Figure 60: Blaze function of the GR150 grism measured on a flight-like grism. The flight prisms are expected to have very similar performance (image credit: CSA, COM DEV Ltd.)

SOSS (Single-Object Slitless Spectroscopy): This mode of NIRISS operation is optimized for relatively bright stars (e.g. exoplanet transiting systems) in 0.6-2.5 µm spectral range in the first order of dispersion. It is based on a GR700XD grism made of the directly ruled ZnSe. A ZnSe cross-dispersion prism is placed in front of the grism for an optimal separation of the first and second order spectra.

To optimize this mode for very high signal-to-noise ratio observations of bright objects, the entrance face of the ZnSe prism has a built-in cylindrical weak lens that defocusses the spectrum over ~25 pixels along the spatial direction, keeping the point spread function nearly diffraction-limited in the spectral direction. As a result, the spectrum is undersampled at most wavelengths along the spectral direction which, given the non-uniform detector pixel response in the presence of pointing jitter noise, constitutes a potential source of systematic effect for achieving high-precision differential spectrophotometry. To mitigate/minimize this problem, the GR700XD grism is slightly rotated by ~ 2º with respect to the detector. Given that the PSF (Point Spread Function) is spread over 25 pixels in the spatial direction, this rotation effectively provides Nyquist sampling at all wavelengths. Furthermore, since the GR700XD grism is operated in slitless mode, there are no flux variations induced by a slit. All these features, designed for achieving high-precision differential spectrophotometry, combined with the very stable thermal environment expected at L2, will make the NIRISS SOSS mode a powerful capability for atmospheric characterization of transiting exoplanets.


Figure 61: Line-flux sensitivity in the NIRISS WFSS mode for various blocking filters (image credit: CSA, COM DEV Ltd.)

Legend to Figure 61: The dashed line is the predicted NIRSpec sensitivity for the multi-slit low-resolution (R ~100) mode; the solid circles superimposed on the dashed line is the spectral resolution of NIRSpec at that wavelength. The green triangle is the sensitivity that TFI would have had at its shortest wavelength (1.45 µm; zLyα = 10:9); TFI would have been typically a factor ~3 more sensitive than NIRISS at the expense of sampling a very narrow redshift range at a given wavelength and limited to probe zLyα > 10:9.

AMI (Aperture Masking Interferometry): The NIRISS PW includes a seven-aperture non-redundant mask (NRM; Figure 62) used for aperture masking interferometry (AMI). The AMI technique enables high-contrast imaging at inner working angle theoretically as small as 1 λ/2D. This mode is particularly appealing for faint companion detection (brown dwarfs & exoplanets) around relatively bright stars. AMI has been successfully used on the ground for a variety of applications, for example to unveil the spiral structure of the stellar wind of the Wolf-Rayet star WR98A (Monnier et al. 1999), detect brown dwarfs (Lloyd et al., 2006) and to put mass limits on the presence of brown dwarfs and exoplanets within the inner 10 AU of the multi-planetary system HR8799.


Figure 62: NIRISS non-redundant mask design (image credit: CSA, COM DEV Ltd.)

The main scientific application of AMI with NIRISS is for high-contrast imaging of point sources but it can also be used for aperture synthesis applications like probing the inner structure of nearby active galactic nuclei. For the former, simulations suggest that contrast of ~ 2 x 10-4 within one λ/D at 4.3 µm should be achieved on a M = 8 star in 104 seconds. This level of contrast is sufficient to detect 5-10 MJup gas-giant exoplanets around bright nearby young (10-100 Myrs) stars. For comparison, contrast at the level of ~ 10-3 within one λ/D at L0 has been achieved on Keck. Since AMI is particularly sensitive to amplitude errors, a space-based environment is ideal for AMI. The NIRISS simulations take into account the instrumental effect of bad pixels, intra-pixel response and flat field errors and assume one calibrator/reference star; using more than one calibrator should improved the performance. As seen in Figure 12, AMI is probing a unique discovery space between 70 and 500 marcsec which is very complementary to NIRCam and MIRI, both virtually "blind" to companions at separations less than ~0.5 arcsec.


Figure 63: Five sigma contrast curve predicted for the NIRCam/MIRI coronagraphs and the NIRISS/AMI mode. AMI is probing relatively small inner working angles (image credit: CSA, COM DEV Ltd.)





BBI (Broadband Imaging)

F090W, F115M, F150W, F200W, F277W, F444W, F356W



WSS (Wide-Field Slitless Spectroscopy)

F115W, F150W, F200W, F140M, F158M

GR150H or GR150V


SOSS (Single Object Slitless Spectroscopy)




AMI (Aperture Interferometric Imaging)

F380M, F430M, F444W


NMR (Non Redundant Mask)

Pupil Alignment (used only during on- ground testing)



PAR (Pupil Alignment Reference)

Table 11: Summary of NIRISS filter, grism and mask configurations for different modes of operation (Ref. 99)

FGS/NIRISS integration and status:

• August 27, 2015: Preparations for the third cryo-vacuum test (CV3) of the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center continued throughout the summer. For the first time, the flight configuration of the ISIM was vigorously shaken – not stirred! – and bombarded by intense acoustical waves to simulate the harsh conditions of launch. Both NIRISS and FGS sailed through their “system functional tests” before and after these perturbations with no issues. Additional tests to confirm the electromagnetic compatibility of the subsystems of ISIM under conditions that simulate normal operations were also completed successfully. Now that the robustness of the ISIM has been demonstrated, it’s “full speed ahead” for the beginning of CV3 in late October! 109)

• Feb. 12, 2015: FGS/NIRISS became the first instrument to be reinstalled in the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) following the "Half-Time Show." All the planned hardware changes were successfully completed and both instruments passed their electronic check-outs at room temperature with flying colors. FGS/NIRISS is ready for the final series of tests at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center! 110)

• Oct. 29, 2013: NIRISS completed its first suite of tests under cryogenic conditions in the large vacuum chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The tests featured "first light" observations for all the observing modes of NIRISS. Although a few glitches occurred, initial analysis of the test data show that NIRISS is performing marvelously.

• March 1, 2013: NIRISS and the FGS became the first flight instruments to be attached to the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module), which is currently located in the large clean room at NASA/GSFC (Ref.98).

• Dec. 21, 2012: NIRISS and the FGS successfully completed room-temperature functional tests at NASA/GSFC.

• Nov. 15, 2012: NIRISS and the FGS became the first JWST instruments to be accepted formally by NASA during the Delivery Review Board meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

• The Canadian Space Agency delivered NIRISS and the Fine Guidance Sensor to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on July 30, 2012.

• The end-to-end functional and performance cryogenic vacuum testing of NIRISS was successfully completed at the beginning of 2012. The new, compared to TFI, components of the Dual Wheel went through separate qualification process afterwards.


Figure 64: FGS and NIRISS are two instruments in one package (image credit: CSA)

Legend to Figure 64: The left image shows the components of FGS. Light from the telescope is redirected by the POM (Pick-Off Mirror), and refocused by the TMA (Three-Mirror Assembly) onto the Fine Focus Mechanism before entering the detector assembly. The FGS has two detectors, called FPAs (Focal Plane Assemblies), which record the light . — The right image shows the components of NIRISS. Light from the telescope is redirected into NIRISS by its Pick-Off Mirror. The collimator makes the light rays parallel to each other so they pass correctly through various combinations of filters or light-splitting grisms in the Pupil and Filter Wheel. Finally, the light is focused by the camera onto the detector (Ref. 100).


Figure 65: FGS full instrument level test (image credit: CSA, COM DEV Ltd., Ref. 108)


Figure 66: Photo of the fully assembled NIRISS (bottom) and FGS-Guider (image credit: CSA, NASA) 111)

Spacecraft bus and sunshield

The JWST spacecraft bus provides the necessary support functions for the operation of the JWST observatory. The bus is the home for six major subsystems: 112)

• ACS (Attitude Control Subsystem)

• EPS (Electrical Power Subsystem)

• C&DHS (Command and Data Handling Subsystem)

• RF communications subsystem

• Propulsion subsystem

• TCS (Thermal Control Subsystem)

The spacecraft is 3-axis stabilized. Two star trackers (+ 1 for redundancy) point the observatory toward the science target prior to guide star acquisition, and they provide roll stability about the telescope line of sight (V1 axis.) Six reaction wheels (two are redundant) are mounted on isolators near the center of gravity of the bus to reduce disturbances to the observatory. These reaction wheels offload the fine steering control (operation from a 16 Hz update from the FGS) to maintain the fine steering mirror near its central position to limit differential distortion-induced blurring onto the target star. 113) 114)


Figure 67: Top view of the JWST spacecraft bus (image credit: NASA)


Figure 68: Observatory schematic block diagram (image credit: NASA)

A propulsion subsystem, containing the fuel tanks and thrusters, is used to support trajectory maneuvers to L2 and to maintain the halo orbit at L2.

The avionics design of JWST employs the FPE (Focal Plane Electronics) onboard network which uses the SpaceWire specification and a transport layer (not part of SpaceWire). SpaceWire is used to provide point‐to‐point links to ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module). A MIL‐STD‐1553 data bus is being used to communicate with the ICEs (Instrument Control Electronics) of each instrument, and FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor).


Figure 69: Various FM (Flight Model) and EM (Engineering Model) components of the JWST spacecraft (image credit: NASA, Ref. 40)

RF communications: JWST will be using CCTS (Common Command and Telemetry System), a modified multimission COTS system of Northrop Grumman which is based on Raytheon's ECLIPSE product line (Raytheon was responsible for developing this system for Northrop Grumman. ECLIPSE is a commercial off-the-shelf command and telemetry product that is configured to support both satellite flight operations and integration and test for JWST. 115)

Onboard storage is provided by a solid-state recorder with a capacity of 58.9 GB (manufacturer: SEAKR Engineering, Inc.). Operating like a digital video recorder, the spacecraft flight unit records all science data together with continuous engineering "state of health" telemetry for the entire observatory 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The data is downloaded to the ground station when the telescope communicates with Earth during a four-hour window every 12 hours. 116)

A high gain antenna provides Ka-band and S-band communications. The Ka-band downlink from L2 is used for science data at the selectable rates of 7, 14, or 28 Mbit/s. A pair of omni-directional antennas (S-band) provide near hemispherical coverage for emergency communications. The S-band nominal downlink is 40 kbit/s and the uplink is 16 kbit/s.

Note: Unlike Hubble, JWST was never meant to be repaired. But in May 2007, NASA announced that it is considering installing a grapple attachment anyway, just to be safe.


Figure 70: JWST communications system architecture (image credit: NASA) 117)

JWST Sunshield:

The sunshield provides a very stable passively cooled cryogenic environment to the OTE and ISIM instrumentation - taking full advantage of the steady thermal conditions of the JWST halo orbit at L2. Thermal stability is further enhanced by the two-chord fold architecture of the primary mirror. The folding architecture allows simple thermal straps across the hinge lines and results in a uniform temperature distribution on the primary mirror structure. With these features, the observatory can maintain its optical performance and optical stability for any pointing within its FOR (Field of Regard) without relying on active thermal control or active wavefront control. The sunshield deployment concept is based on Northrop Grumman's precision antenna mesh system. 118) 119)

The FOR (Field of Regard) is the region of the sky in which observations can be conducted safely at a given time. For JWST, the FOR is a large annulus that moves with the position of the Sun and covers about 40% of the sky at any time. This coverage is lower than the ~80% that is accessible by Hubble. The FOR, as is shown in Figure 71, allows one to observe targets from 85º to 135º of the Sun. Most astronomical targets are observable for two periods separated by 6 months during each year. The length of the observing window varies with ecliptic latitude, and targets within 5º of the ecliptic poles are visible continuously, and provides 100% accessibility of the sky during a year period. The sunshield permits the observatory to pitch toward and away from the sun by approximately 68º, while still keeping the telescope in the shade (Figure 72). The continuous viewing zone is important for some science programs that involve monitoring throughout the year and will also be useful for calibration purposes. Outside the continuous viewing zone every area in the sky is observable for at least 100 days per year. The maximum time on target at a given orientation is 10 days.


Figure 71: Schematic of observatory FOR (image credit: STScI, Ref. 34)


Figure 72: FOR directions of the OTE in relation to the Sun, Earth and Moon (red arrow), image credit: STScI

The sunshield has dimensions of about 20 m x 14 m providing ample shielding from light of the sun and the Earth. The sunshield provides a 5 layer, ”V” groove radiator design of lightweight reflecting material. It reduces the 300 kW of radiation it receives from the sun on its sunward side, to a mere 23 mW (milliwatt) at the back, sufficient to sustain a 300 K temperature drop from front to back. With a back sunshield temperature of ~ 90 K, the primary mirror, the optical truss, and the instrument payload can radiate their heat to space (at 2.7 K) and reach cryogenic temperatures of 30-50 K. These low temperatures and the total blocking of direct or reflected sunlight are crucial to the scientific success of JWST. 120)

The five sunshield layers of ultra-thin membrane are constructed from DuPont Kapton® E. The first layer, at the hot side, is 50.8 µm thick. The remaining four layers are each 25.4 µm thick, similar in thickness to a human hair. The membranes use a vapor-deposited aluminum coating to produce a highly reflective surface and can sustain a 300 K temperature drop. Z-folded at launch, the sunshield will be signaled to begin deploying two days into launch, as the spacecraft heads toward its orbit. 121)


Figure 73: The five-layer finite element model of the JWST sunshield (image credit: NGAS)

Historically, membranes have been designed to induce a biaxial-tension stress state, thus guaranteeing that wrinkles do not form. The large-scale geometry of the JWST sunshield, along with its complex design features, may hinder such a biaxial stress state. Therefore, the ability to accurately predict the response of the membrane becomes critical to mission success. This article addresses the analytical problems involved in meeting those objectives and looks ahead to the challenges remaining in manufacturing the sunshield.


Figure 74: Overview of the JWST sunshield analysis process (image credit: NGAS)


Figure 75: Deployed observatory, back view: Spacecraft bus, solar arrays, communications antenna, and ISIM (image credit: NGAS)

Total mass of spacecraft

~ 6200 kg, including observatory, on-orbit consumables and launch vehicle adaptor

Mission duration

5 years (10 year goal)

Diameter of primary mirror

6.5 m

Clear aperture of primary mirror

25 m2

Primary mirror material


Mass of primary mirror

705 kg

Mass of a single primary mirror segment

20.1 kg for a single beryllium mirror, 39.48 kg for one entire PMSA (Primary Mirror Segment Assembly)

Focal length

131.4 m

Number of primary mirror segments


Optical resolution

~0.1 arcsecond

Wavelength coverage

0.6 - 28 µm

Size of sunshield

21.2 m x 14.2 m

Telescope operating temperature

~45 K

Launch vehicle

Ariane 5 ECA (an ESA sponsored flight from Kourou)



Table 12: Overview of JWST mission parameters 122)

Minimize JWST continued

Development status of the JWST project

• August 24, 2020: Testing teams have successfully completed a critical milestone focused on demonstrating that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will respond to commands once in space. - Known as a “Ground Segment Test,” this is the first time commands to power on and test Webb’s scientific instruments have been sent to the fully-assembled observatory from its Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. 123)

- Since reliably communicating with Webb when in space is a mission-critical priority for NASA, tests like these are part of a comprehensive regimen designed to validate and ensure all components of the observatory will function in space with the complex communications networks involved in both sending commands, and downlinking scientific data. This test successfully demonstrated the complete end-to-end flow from planning the science Webb will perform to posting the scientific data to the community archive.

- “This was the first time we have done this with both the actual Webb flight hardware and the ground system. We’ve performed pieces of this test as the observatory was being assembled, but this is the first ever, and fully successful, end-to-end operation of the observatory and ground segment. This is a big milestone for the project, and very rewarding to see Webb working as expected,” said Amanda Arvai, Deputy Division Head of Mission Operations at STScI in Maryland.

- In this test, commands to sequentially turn on, move, and operate each of Webb’s four scientific instruments were relayed from the Mission Operations Center. During the test, the observatory is treated as if it were a million miles away in orbit. To do this, the Flight Operations Team connected the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant radio antennas that NASA uses to communicate with many spacecraft. However, since Webb isn’t in space yet, special equipment was used to emulate the real radio link that will exist between Webb and the Deep Space Network when Webb is in orbit. Commands were then relayed through the Deep Space Network emulator to the observatory, which is currently inside a Northrop Grumman clean room in Redondo Beach, California.

- “This was also the first time we’ve demonstrated the complete cycle for conducting observations with the observatory’s science instruments. This cycle starts with the creation of an observation plan by the ground system which is uplinked to the observatory by the Flight Operations Team. Webb’s science instruments then performed the observations and the data was transmitted back to the Mission Operations Center in Baltimore, where the science was processed and distributed to scientists,” said Arvai.

- When Webb is in space, commands will flow from STScI in Baltimore to one of the three Deep Space Network locations —California, Spain, or Australia. Signals will then be sent to the orbiting observatory nearly one million miles away. Additionally the NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network, the Space Network in New Mexico, the European Space Agency’s Malindi station in Kenya, and European Space Operations Centre in Germany will also aid in keeping a constant line of communication open with Webb at all times.


Figure 76: Inside Webb’s Mission Operations Center, Test Operator Jessica Hart is seen on-console at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland monitoring test progress with social distancing protocol in place (image credits: STSCI/Amanda Arvai)

- To complete the ground segment test a team of nearly 100 people worked together through the course of four consecutive days. Due to staffing restrictions in place due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, only seven individuals were present inside the Mission Operations Center, with the rest working remotely to routinely monitor progress. Next up for Webb: observatory level acoustic and sine-vibration testing that will demonstrate that the assembled telescope is capable of surviving the rigors of launch by exposing it to similar conditions.

- Webb is NASA’s next great space science observatory, which will help in solving the mysteries of our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mystifying structures and origins of our universe. Webb is an international program led by NASA, along with its partners ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

• June 9, 2020: To test the James Webb Space Telescope’s readiness for its journey in space, technicians successfully commanded it to deploy and extend a critical part of the observatory known as the Deployable Tower Assembly. 124)

- The primary purpose of the deployable tower is to create a large gap between the upper part of the observatory that houses its iconic gold mirrors and scientific instruments, and the lower section known as the spacecraft bus which holds its comparatively warm electronics and propulsion systems. By creating a space between the two, it allows for Webb’s active and passive cooling systems to bring its mirrors and sensors down to staggeringly cold temperatures required to perform optimal science.

- Webb was designed to look for faint traces of infrared light, which is essentially heat energy. To detect the extremely faint heat signals of astronomical objects that are incredibly far away, the telescope itself has to be very cold and stable.

- During the test, the tower was slowly extended 48 inches (1.2 meters) upward over the course of several hours, in the same maneuver it will perform once in space. Simulating the zero-gravity environment Webb will operate in, engineers employed an innovative series of pulleys, counterbalances and a special crane called a gravity-negation system that perfectly offloaded all of the effects of Earth’s gravity on the observatory. Now that Webb is fully assembled, the difficulty of testing and properly simulating a zero-gravity environment has increased significantly.

- “The Deployable Tower Assembly worked beautifully during the test,” said Alphonso Stewart the Webb deployment systems lead for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It performed exactly as predicted, and from our expectations from previous tests before the full observatory was assembled. This was the first time that this part of Webb was tested in its flight-like configuration to the highest level of fidelity we possibly could. This test provides the opportunity to assess all interfaces and interactions between the instrument and bus sections of the observatory."

- In addition to helping the observatory cool down, the Deployable Tower Assembly is also a big part of how Webb is able to pack into a much smaller size to fit inside an Ariane 5 rocket for launch. Webb is the largest space science observatory ever built, but to fit a telescope that big into a rocket, engineers had to design it to fold down into a much smaller configuration. Webb’s Deployable Tower Assembly helps Webb to just barely fit inside a 17.8-foot (5.4-meter) payload fairing. Once in space, the tower will extend to give the rest of Webb’s deployable parts, such as the sunshield and mirrors, the necessary amount of room needed to unpack and unfold into a fully functional infrared space observatory.

- “We need to know that Webb will work the way we expect it to before we send it to space,” said Stewart. “This is why we test, and when we do, we test as flight-like as possible. The way we send the commands to the spacecraft, the sequence, the individual sitting at the console, the communication that we use. We replicate all of these things to see if we are missing something, to see if there is something that needs to be changed, and to make sure that all of our planning to date has been correct.”

Figure 77: To test the James Webb Space Telescope’s readiness for its journey in space, technicians successfully commanded it to deploy and extend a critical part of the observatory known as the Deployable Tower Assembly. In this test, the deployable tower was commanded to extend 48 inches (1.2 meters) over the course of several hours to ensure that the observatory will be able to complete this process once in space (Producer, Videographer, Editor – Michael McClare (KBRwyle). Video credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

- Following augmented personal safety procedures due to COVID-19, the James Webb Space Telescope’s Northrop Grumman team in California continued integration and testing work with significantly reduced on-site personnel and shifts. The NASA/Northrop Grumman team recently resumed near-full operations. NASA is evaluating potential impacts on the March 2021 launch date, and will continually assess the schedule and adjust decisions as the situation unfolds.

• May 14, 2020: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has been successfully folded and stowed into the same configuration it will have when loaded onto an Ariane 5 rocket for launch next year. 125)

- Webb is NASA’s largest and most complex space science telescope ever built. Too big for any rocket available in its fully expanded form, the entire observatory was designed to fold in on itself to achieve a much smaller configuration. Once in space, the observatory will unfold and stretch itself out in a carefully practiced series of steps before beginning to make groundbreaking observations of the cosmos.

- “The James Webb Space Telescope achieved another significant milestone with the entire observatory in its launch configuration for the first time, in preparation for environmental testing,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “I am very proud of the entire Northrop Grumman and NASA integration and test team. This accomplishment demonstrates the outstanding dedication and diligence of the team in such trying times due to COVID-19.”

- The testing team’s charter is to make sure every piece of hardware and every piece of software that comprise Webb will work not only individually, but as a full observatory. Now that Webb is completely assembled, technicians and engineers have seized the unique opportunity to command the entire spacecraft and carry out the various stages of movement and deployment it will perform when in space. By folding and stowing the spacecraft into the same configuration when it launches from French Guiana, the engineering team can confidently move forward with final environmental testing (acoustics and vibration). After completing the series of tests, Webb will be deployed one last time on Earth for testing prior to preparing for launch.

- “While operating under augmented personal safety measures because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the project continues to make good progress and achieve significant milestones in preparation for upcoming environmental testing,” said Gregory L. Robinson, the Webb program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Team member safety continues to be our highest priority as the project takes precautions to protect Webb’s hardware and continue with integration and testing. NASA will continually assess the project’s schedule and adjust decisions as the situation evolves.”

- The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.


Figure 78: A first look at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully stowed into the same configuration it will have when loaded into an Ariane V rocket for launch. The image was taken from a webcam in the clean room at Northrop Grumman, in Redondo Beach, California. With staffing restrictions in place due to COVID-19, only essential staff are allowed in the clean room (image credit: Northrop Grumman)

Figure 79: This video shows how NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is designed to fold to a much smaller size in order to fit inside the Ariane V rocket for launch to space. The largest, most complex space observatory ever built, must fold itself to fit within a 17.8 foot (5.4 m diameter) payload fairing, and survive the rigors of a rocket ride to orbit. After liftoff, the entire observatory will unfold in a carefully choreographed series of steps before beginning to make groundbreaking observations of the cosmos [video credit: Michael McClare (KBRwyle): Lead Producer, Bailee DesRocher (USRA): Lead Animator; (credits: NASA Goddard)]


Figure 80: For NASA's JWST to fit into an Ariane V rocket for launch, it must fold up. This graphic shows how Webb fits into the rocket fairing with little room to spare (image credit:

• March 31, 2020: In a recent test, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully deployed its primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space. 126)

- As Webb progresses towards liftoff in 2021, technicians and engineers have been diligently checking off a long list of final tests the observatory will undergo before being packaged for delivery to French Guiana for launch. Performed in early March, this procedure involved commanding the spacecraft’s internal systems to fully extend and latch Webb’s iconic 21 feet 4-inch (6.5 meter) primary mirror, appearing just like it would after it has been launched to orbit. The observatory is currently in a cleanroom at Northrop Grumman Space Systems in Redondo Beach, California.

Figure 81: Performed in early March, this most recent test involved commanding the spacecraft’s internal systems to fully extend, and latch Webb’s iconic 6.5 meter primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space (video credit: NASA, Sophia Roberts)

- The difficulty and complexity of performing tests for Webb has increased significantly, now that the observatory has been fully assembled. Special gravity offsetting equipment was attached to Webb’s mirror to simulate the zero-gravity environment its mechanisms will have to operate in. Tests like these help safeguard mission success by physically demonstrating that the spacecraft is able to move and unfold as intended. The Webb team will deploy the observatory’s primary mirror only once more on the ground, just before preparing it for delivery to the launch site.

- A telescope’s sensitivity, or how much detail it can see, is directly related to the size of the mirror that collects light from the objects being observed. A larger surface area collects more light, just like a larger bucket collects more water in a rain shower than a small one. Webb’s mirror is the biggest of its kind that NASA has ever built.

- In order to perform groundbreaking science, Webb’s primary mirror needs to be so large that it cannot fit inside any rocket available in its fully extended form. Like the art of origami, Webb is a collection of movable parts employing applied material science that have been specifically designed to fold themselves to a compact formation that is considerably smaller than when the observatory is fully deployed. This allows it to just barely fit within a 5-meter payload fairing, with little room to spare.

- “Deploying both wings of the telescope while part of the fully assembled observatory is another significant milestone showing Webb will deploy properly in space. This is a great achievement and an inspiring image for the entire team,” said Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

- The evolving novel coronavirus COVID-19 situation is causing significant impact and disruption globally. Given these circumstances, Webb’s Northrop Grumman team in California has resumed integration and testing work with reduced personnel and shifts until the Deployable Tower Assembly set up in April. The project will then shut down integration and testing operations due to the lack of required NASA onsite personnel related to the COVID-19 situation. The project will reassess over the next couple of weeks and adjust decisions as the situation continues to unfold.

- The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

• January 6, 2020: Researchers may have found a way that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope can quickly identify nearby planets that could be promising for our search for life, as well as worlds that are uninhabitable because their oceans have vaporized. 127)


Figure 82: Conceptual image of water-bearing (left) and dry (right) exoplanets with oxygen-rich atmospheres. Crescents are other planets in the system, and the red sphere is the M-dwarf star around which the exoplanets orbit. The dry exoplanet is closer to the star, so the star appears larger (image credit: NASA/GSFC/Friedlander-Griswold)

- Since planets around other stars (exoplanets) are so far away, scientists cannot look for signs of life by visiting these distant worlds. Instead, they must use a cutting-edge telescope like Webb to see what's inside the atmospheres of exoplanets. One possible indication of life, or biosignature, is the presence of oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere. Oxygen is generated by life on Earth when organisms such as plants, algae and cyanobacteria use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into chemical energy.

- But what should Webb look for to determine if a planet has a lot of oxygen? In a new study, researchers identified a strong signal that oxygen molecules produce when they collide. Scientists say Webb has the potential to detect this signal in the atmospheres of exoplanets.

- “Before our work, oxygen at similar levels as on Earth was thought to be undetectable with Webb, but we identify a promising way to detect it in nearby planetary systems,” said Thomas Fauchez of the Universities Space Research Association at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This oxygen signal is known since the early 80’s from Earth’s atmospheric studies, but has never been studied for exoplanet research.” Fauchez is the lead author of the study, appearing in the journal Nature Astronomy January 6.

- The researchers used a computer model to simulate this oxygen signature by modeling the atmospheric conditions of an exoplanet around an M dwarf, the most common type of star in the universe. M dwarf stars are much smaller, cooler, and fainter than our Sun, yet much more active, with explosive activity that generates intense ultraviolet light. The team modelled the impact of this enhanced radiation on atmospheric chemistry, and used this to simulate how the component colors of the star's light would change when the planet would pass in front of it.

- As starlight passes through the exoplanet’s atmosphere, the oxygen absorbs certain colors (wavelengths) of light— in this case, infrared light with a wavelength of 6.4 µm. When oxygen molecules collide with each other or with other molecules in the exoplanet’s atmosphere, energy from the collision puts the oxygen molecule in a special state that temporarily allows it to absorb the infrared light. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, but detectable using instruments attached to telescopes.

- “Similar oxygen signals exist at 1.06 and 1.27 m and have been discussed in previous studies but these are less strong and much more mitigated by the presence of clouds than the 6.4 µm signal,” said Geronimo Villanueva, a co-author of the paper at Goddard.

- Intriguingly, oxygen can also make an exoplanet appear to host life when it does not, because it can accumulate in a planet’s atmosphere without any life activity at all. For example, if the exoplanet is too close to its host star or receives too much star light, the atmosphere becomes very warm and saturated with water vapor from evaporating oceans. This water could be then broken down by the strong ultraviolet radiation into atomic hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, which is a light atom, escapes to space very easily, leaving the oxygen behind.

- Over time, this process can cause entire oceans to be lost while building up a thick oxygen atmosphere. So, abundant oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere does not necessarily mean abundant life, but may instead indicate a rich water history.

- “Depending upon how easily Webb detects this 6.4 µm signal, we can get an idea about how likely it is that the planet is habitable,” said Ravi Kopparapu, a co-author of the paper at Goddard. “If Webb points to a planet and detects this 6.4 µm signal with relative ease, this would mean that the planet has a very dense oxygen atmosphere and may be uninhabitable.”

- The oxygen signal is so strong that it also can tell astronomers whether M dwarf planets have atmospheres at all, using just a few Webb transit observations.

- “This is important because M dwarf stars are highly active, and it has been postulated that stellar activity might ‘blow away’ entire planetary atmospheres,” said Fauchez. “Knowing simply whether a planet orbiting an M dwarf can have an atmosphere at all is important for understanding star-planet interactions around these abundant but active stars.”

- Although the oxygen signal is strong, cosmic distances are vast and M dwarfs are dim, so these stars will have to be relatively nearby for Webb to detect the signal in exoplanet atmospheres within a reasonable amount of time. An exoplanet with a modern Earth-like atmosphere will have to be orbiting an M dwarf that is within approximately 16 light-years of Earth. For a desiccated exoplanet with an oxygen atmosphere 22 times the pressure of Earth’s, the signal could be detected up to about 82 light-years away. One light-year, the distance light travels in a year, is almost six trillion miles. For comparison, the closest stars to our Sun are found in the Alpha Centauri system a little over 4 light-years away, and our galaxy is about 100,000 light-years across.

- The research was funded in part by Goddard’s Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration (SEEC), which is funded in part by the NASA Planetary Science Division's Internal Scientist Funding Model. This project has also received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant, the NASA Astrobiology Institute Alternative Earths team, and the NExSS Virtual Planetary Laboratory.

- Webb will be the world's premier space science observatory, when it launches in 2021. It will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

• August 28, 2019: Reaching a major milestone, engineers have successfully connected the two halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope for the first time at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California. Once it reaches space, NASA's most powerful and complex space telescope will explore the cosmos using infrared light, from planets and moons within our solar system to the most ancient and distant galaxies. 128)

- To combine both halves of Webb, engineers carefully lifted the telescope (which includes the mirrors and science instruments) above the already-combined sunshield and spacecraft using a crane. Team members slowly guided the telescope into place, ensuring that all primary points of contact were perfectly aligned and seated properly. The observatory has been mechanically connected; next steps will be to electrically connect the halves, and then test the electrical connections.

- “The assembly of the telescope and its scientific instruments, sunshield and the spacecraft into one observatory represents an incredible achievement by the entire Webb team,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This milestone symbolizes the efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals for over more than 20 years across NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, Northrop Grumman, and the rest of our industrial and academic partners.”

- Next up for Webb testing, engineers will fully deploy the intricate five-layer sunshield, which is designed to keep Webb's mirrors and scientific instruments cold by blocking infrared light from the Earth, Moon and Sun. The ability of the sunshield to deploy to its correct shape is critical to mission success.

- “This is an exciting time to now see all Webb’s parts finally joined together into a single observatory for the very first time,” said Gregory Robinson, the Webb program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “The engineering team has accomplished a huge step forward and soon we will be able to see incredible new views of our amazing universe.”

- Both of the telescope’s major components have been tested individually through all of the environments they would encounter during a rocket ride and orbiting mission a million miles away from Earth. Now that Webb is a fully assembled observatory, it will go through additional environmental and deployment testing to ensure mission success. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2021.

- Webb will be the world's premier space science observatory. It will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency), and the Canadian Space Agency.


Figure 83: The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures (UPSs) that fold up around the telescope for launch, are seen partially deployed to an open configuration to enable telescope installation (image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

• August 6, 2019: In order to do groundbreaking science, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope must first perform an extremely choreographed series of deployments, extensions, and movements that bring the observatory to life shortly after launch. Too big to fit in any rocket available in its fully deployed form, Webb was engineered to intricately fold in on itself to achieve a much smaller size during transport. 129)

- Technicians and engineers recently tested a key part of this choreography by successfully commanding Webb to deploy the support structure that holds its secondary mirror in place. This is a critical milestone in preparing the observatory for its journey to orbit. The next time this will occur will be when Webb is in space, and on its way to gaze into the cosmos from a million miles away.

Figure 84: To ensure NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is prepared for liftoff, involved team members test critical parts of its deployment sequences on the ground. Recently Webb’s secondary mirror and accompanying support structure were successfully fully deployed in the same configuration it will see when in space (video credit: NASA, Sophia Roberts)

- The secondary mirror is one of the most important pieces of equipment on the telescope, and is essential to the success of the mission. When deployed, this mirror will sit out in front of Webb's hexagonal primary mirrors, which form an iconic honeycomb-like shape. This smaller circular mirror serves an important role in collecting light from Webb’s 18 primary mirrors into a focused beam. That beam is then sent down into the tertiary and fine steering mirrors, and finally to Webb's four powerful scientific instruments.

- “The proper deployment and positioning of its secondary mirror is what makes this a telescope – without it, Webb would not be able to perform the revolutionary science we expect it to achieve. This successful deployment test is another significant step towards completing the final observatory,” said Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

- Though there are many preparations still underway for the full assembly of the James Webb Space Telescope’s two halves, the secondary mirror test represents the last large milestone before the integration of Webb into its final form as a complete observatory. This operation was also another demonstration that the electronic connection between the spacecraft and the telescope is working properly, and is capable of delivering commands throughout the observatory as designed.

- Webb will be the world's premier space science observatory. It will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.


Figure 85: Deployment test of Webb’s secondary mirror. As one of the NASA Webb’s most important components, technicians and engineers thoroughly inspect the support structure that holds its secondary mirror in place (visible in the top right corner of the image) following successful testing (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• February 8, 2019: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has successfully passed another series of critical testing milestones on its march to the launch pad. In recent acoustic and sine vibration tests, technicians and engineers exposed Webb's spacecraft element to brutal dynamic mechanical environmental conditions to ensure it will endure the rigors of a rocket launch to space. 130)

Figure 86: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has successfully passed another series of critical testing milestones on its march to the launch pad. In recent acoustic and sine vibration tests, technicians and engineers exposed Webb’s spacecraft element to brutal dynamic mechanical environmental conditions to ensure it will endure the rigors of a rocket launch to space (video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mike Menzel)

- During liftoff, rockets generate extremely powerful vibrations and energetic sound waves that bounce off the ground and nearby buildings and impact the rocket as it makes its way skyward. Technicians and engineers aim to protect Webb from these intense sound waves and vibrations.

- To simulate these conditions, flight components are intentionally punished with a long litany of tests throughout different facilities to identify potential issues on the ground. Webb was bombarded by powerful sound waves from massive speakers and then placed on an electrodynamic vibration table and strongly but precisely shaken. Together, these tests mimic the range of extreme shaking that spacecraft experience while riding a rocket to space.

- “Webb’s launch vibration environment is similar to a pretty bumpy commercial airplane flight during turbulence,” said Paul Geithner, deputy project manager – technical, James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “And, its launch acoustic environment is about 10 times more sound pressure, 100 times more intense and four times louder than a rock concert.”

- One half of the Webb observatory, known as the “spacecraft element,” was the subject of this latest testing. The spacecraft element consists of the “bus,” which is the equipment that actually flies the observatory in space, plus the tennis-court-size sunshield that will keep Webb’s sensitive optics and instruments at their required super-cold operating temperature. Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, NASA’s lead industrial teammate on Webb, designed and built the spacecraft element, and conducted the testing in their facilities with NASA support and guidance. Northrop Grumman and NASA engineers and technicians worked tirelessly together as a team over the last few months to complete these complex dynamic mechanical environmental tests.


Figure 87: To keep Webb’s spacecraft element and its sensitive instruments contaminant free, technicians and engineers enclose it in a protective clamshell that serves as a mobile clean room while in transport (image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Gunn)

- The initial attempt at acoustic testing last spring uncovered a problem with a specific portion of sunshield hardware, which required some modifications taking several months. Subsequently, the acoustic test was redone, and this time everything went successfully. With acoustic testing complete, the spacecraft element was transported in a mobile clean room to a separate vibration facility, where its spacecraft hardware was exposed to the bumps and shakes that occur when riding a rocket soaring through the atmosphere at high Mach speeds. Northrop Grumman, NASA and its partner, ESA (European Space Agency), are familiar with the flight profile and performance of the Ariane 5 rocket that will carry Webb into space in early 2021, so technicians tuned the tests to mimic the conditions it’s expected to face during launch.

- With the successful completion of its mechanical environmental testing, the spacecraft element is being prepared for thermal vacuum testing. This other major environmental test will ensure it functions electrically in the harsh temperatures and vacuum of space. The other half of Webb, which consists of the telescope and science instruments, had completed its own vibration and acoustic testing at Goddard and cryogenic-temperature thermal vacuum testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston prior to delivery at Northrop Grumman last year. Once finished with thermal vacuum testing, the spacecraft element will return to the giant clean room where it was assembled, to be deployed from its folded-up launch configuration and into its operational configuration, which will be the final proof that it has passed all of its environmental tests. Then, the two halves of Webb — the spacecraft and the telescope elements — will be integrated into one complete observatory for a final round of testing and evaluation prior to launch.

- Webb will be the world's premier space science observatory. It will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

• September 26, 2018: For the first time, the two halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope — the spacecraft and the telescope—were connected together using temporary ground wiring that enabled them to “speak” to each other like they will in flight. 131)

- Although it was a significant step forward for the program, this test was an optional "risk reduction" test that took advantage of an opportunity to connect the two halves of the observatory together electrically months earlier than planned. If any issues had been found, it would have given engineers more time to fix them and without causing further delays. As a bonus, it also provided a jumpstart for the separate spacecraft and telescope test teams to begin working jointly as they will when the whole observatory is put together in one piece next year.

- The James Webb telescope is both an exceedingly complex and rewarding undertaking for NASA and its international partners. Scientists anticipate its findings to rewrite textbooks on astronomy by providing revolutionary observations of the cosmos, while engineers and involved technicians forecast that its challenging design will enable and influence future spacecraft architecture for years to come.

- Each piece of Webb has undergone rigorous testing throughout various historic and state of the art facilities across the United States. This ensures the entire observatory is prepared to survive the inherent harshness of a rocket launch to space, and years of continuous exposure to the extremes encountered on a mission nearly a million miles away from Earth.

- In February, Webb made an important, and symbolic step forward in its path to completion when all primary flight components of the observatory came to reside under the same roof at Northrop Grumman in Los Angeles, California. This is where all flight hardware is undergoing final assembly and testing until cleared to launch from the Guiana Space Centre near Kourou in French Guiana.

- “What we did now was make electrical connections between the flight telescope and flight spacecraft to understand all the nuances of the electrical interface. Specifically in this test, the spacecraft commanded mirror motion on the telescope, and the telescope replied back with telemetry confirming it. Even though we have tested each half with a simulator of the other half during their parallel construction, there is nothing exactly like connecting the real thing to the real thing. While the sunshield was being reassembled to get back into its environmental testing, we took advantage of the time and did a flight-to-flight electrical dry run right now to reduce schedule risk later,” said Mike Menzel, Webb’s Mission System Engineer. “The full complement of electrical and software tests will be run next year when the observatory is finally fully assembled for flight.”

- The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world's premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).


Figure 88: With all flight components under one roof, technicians and engineers work to prepare the two halves of the James Webb Space Telescope for continued testing and eventual assembly in 2019 (image credit: Northrop Grumman)

• September 5, 2018: Success in JWST critical communications tests: When NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2021, it will write a new chapter in cosmic history. This premier space science observatory will seek the first stars and galaxies, explore distant planets around other stars, and solve mysteries of own solar system. Webb will be controlled from the MOC (Mission Operations Center) at the STScI (Space Telescope Science Institute) in Baltimore, Maryland. 132)

- To prepare for launch, the flight operations team recently conducted two successful communications tests. The first simulated the complex communications among numerous entities in the critical period of launch through the first six hours of flight. The second demonstrated that the MOC could successfully communicate with the telescope.

- A complicated dance: From the moment Webb launches, and through the first six hours of flight, five different telecommunications service providers located around the world will alternately convey command and telemetry data to the mission operations team in the MOC. The first exercise demonstrated the complex exchange among these facilities.

- These different providers are needed because of the geometry of Earth in relation to Webb’s orbit and altitude. “Whereas most low-Earth missions can use TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) or some other kind of communications satellite in orbit around Earth to relay data, we are so far away that we have to use other facilities,” explained NASA’s Carl Starr, the Mission Operations Manager for Webb at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

- By six hours after liftoff, Webb will be about halfway to the Moon and six times higher in altitude than the geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) where TDRS and many communications satellites dwell. When the telescope reaches its destination, it will be 1.5 million km from Earth—about 45 times farther away than GEO.

- “It’s a lot of going back and forth,” said Starr. “You have to change configurations, you need a stable connection with Webb at each change, you have to establish the network connections, you have to process the data—and you have to do it multiple times with different stations and make it seamless.”

- “And to make things even more complicated,” Starr continued, “everyone we are talking about is in different places. You have the Space Network out in New Mexico, the DSN (Deep Space Network) in California, and the European Space Agency’s Malindi station in Kenya and ESOC (European Space Operations Center) in Germany. It becomes a very complicated test to do, because no one is in the same time zone—and all of that data comes in and out of this building.”

- This test was a major step in demonstrating the flight operations capabilities and processes to support launch-day communications. After the first day, the team moves to a normal setup with just the three DSN terminals around the world.

- “The teams were able to talk with the external entities, and prove the concept that we can manipulate the communications on the day of launch here in the building for the mission,” Starr said. “We’ll have other proficiency exercises later, but this was the first time that we did it, and it was very successful.”


Figure 89: The Mission Operations Center for the James Webb Space Telescope is located at the STScI (Space Telescope Science Institute) in Baltimore, Maryland. In preparation for launch, the flight operations team recently conducted two critical and successful communications tests (image credit: STScI)

- Talking to the Telescope: No mission would be possible without communicating with the telescope. The flight operations team in Baltimore recently did that for the first time, talking to the actual Webb spacecraft on the ground while it’s being integrated and tested across the country at the Northrop Grumman facility in Los Angeles, California.

- “We treated Webb as if it were a million miles away,” said Starr. To do this, the flight operations team connected the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network. However, since Webb isn’t really in space yet, special equipment was used to emulate the real radio link that will exist between Webb and the Deep Space Network when Webb flies. “We can command and control the vehicle now, and run tests with it from here, without having to travel to Northrop Grumman,” Starr explained. “It really is making use of technology to stay on schedule.”

- It didn’t really matter where Webb was during the test. “As far as we’re concerned, it could be in the basement of this building, and we wouldn’t know any different,” Starr added. “You’re just at your console, you’ve got a data line, your screen’s all very much remote. I could imagine it must be how drone pilots feel. They’re not anywhere near where their vehicle is.”

- During the exercise, the team executed non-operational commands and initiated a recorder playback. This important test demonstrated the flight operations team’s ability to command Webb from the MOC in Baltimore.

- Throughout most of commissioning, the MOC will be in constant communication with Webb. After commissioning, approximately 180 days after launch, the team will communicate for 8 hours a day with the telescope. During that time, operators will send up packages of commands for the telescope to run autonomously and downlink the science data.

- More to come: More tests will follow, but these were the first to show the MOC’s successful communication with Webb and with the many command and telemetry service providers. The fact that these exercises were carried out flawlessly is a testament to the hard work of the flight operations team, as well as teams across the country and around the world.

- The JWST will be the world's premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

• July 18, 2018: The sound associated with a rocket launch creates extreme vibrations that can adversely affect any satellite or observatory, so engineers put spacecraft through simulations to ensure they will remain operational. 133)

- The sunshield separates the observatory into a hot, sun-facing side (reaching temperatures close to 110º C), and a cold side (approximately -240ºC) where the sunlight is blocked from interfering with the sensitive telescope instruments.

- The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world's premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).


Figure 90: In this photo, technicians delicately inspect stowed sunshield membranes of NASA's JWST on the forward side of the spacecraft. Acoustic testing exposes the spacecraft to similar forces and stress experienced during liftoff, allowing engineers to better prepare it for the rigors of spaceflight (image credit: Northrop Grumman)

• June 5, 2018: How will NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shed the heat generated by its science instruments and their supporting electronics? To anyone who is not an engineer or scientist, the answer might be complex and “baffling,” and it turns out the process is exactly that. 134)

- Webb’s four science instruments are held within a support structure called the integrated science instrument module (ISIM), located behind the telescope’s primary mirror. The ISIM and Webb’s optics form the science payload of the observatory. To keep heat away from the sensitive instruments, a majority of the electronics used to power and operate the instruments are housed in a compartment below ISIM, where specially designed baffles direct the heat safely into space and away from any cold surfaces of the observatory.

- The baffles essentially act as mirrors to reflect the heat (infrared radiation) outward in a specific direction. If that sounds familiar, it is because Webb’s mirrors will do very much the same thing — but instead of reflecting the infrared light into space, they will guide it with pinpoint accuracy to the telescope’s science instruments.

- “Gold has a very high reflectivity in the infrared spectrum range, so it is ideal for directing heat,” explained Matthew Stephens, a mechanical systems engineer for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. “This is the same reason all of the primary, secondary, and tertiary mirrors are gold-coated.”

- The engineers in this photo of Figure 91 are reinstalling the baffles, which had been previously removed and safely stored in a clean environment to protect them from any contamination during integration and testing of the science payload. The clear plastic sheets placed over the baffles will protect them from any contamination during the remaining integration and testing phases for the observatory.

- The engineers had to reinstall the baffles before Webb’s science payload and its spacecraft element (the combined spacecraft bus and sunshield) are integrated at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, where both halves of the observatory currently reside. If the engineers wait until after integration, Webb’s tennis-court-sized sunshield will obstruct the ISIM electronics compartment and make reinstalling the baffles much more difficult.


Figure 91: Engineers reinstall one of the gold-plated baffles that helps direct heat away from the integrated science instrument module (ISIM) of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The baffles direct the heat generated by the instrument electronics safely into space and away from any cold areas of the infrared telescope image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)


Figure 92: Engineers carefully hold onto a gold-plated baffle as they use a scissor lift to access the back of the integrated science instrument module (ISIM) of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. They are in the process of reinstalling the baffles, which direct the heat generated by the instrument electronics safely into space and away from any cold areas of the infrared telescope (image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

• June 4, 2018: In the last year, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and in particular the telescope and the instruments have passed some key milestones on their road towards launch, now planned for 2020. 135)

- The first landmark was the completion of four-month long cryogenic tests in the giant thermal vacuum chamber, known as Chamber A, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. There, JWST's optical telescope and integrated science instrument module (OTIS) underwent a series of tests designed to check that the telescope and its four scientific instruments functioned as expected in an extremely cold, airless environment, similar to the conditions they will experience in space.

- On 27 September 2017, after confirming that OTIS can survive and operate flawlessly in temperatures of approximately 40 Kelvin (-233º C), engineers began to gradually warm the chamber. This was a very precise operation that required extreme caution in order to avoid contaminating the optical equipment or generating mechanical stresses that could damage the instruments or other JWST hardware.

- Once the thermal conditions inside the chamber returned to near room temperature, a final set of functional tests was performed under vacuum conditions. These tests confirmed that the warm-up procedure and OTIS cold testing had not caused any issue with respect to the functionality of the instruments and telescope. After this, the vacuum was slowly counteracted by pumping extra-clean air back into the chamber.

- The 40-ton chamber door was unsealed on 18 November 2017, marking the successful completion of the cryogenic testing, and OTIS finally emerged from Chamber A on 1 December, after some 100 days shut inside the cavernous vault.


Figure 93: The JWST's optical telescope and integrated science instrument module (OTIS) was removed from Chamber A at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on 1 December 2017 (image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

A closer look at NIRSpec microshutters and detectors:

- After analysis of the data collected during the OTIS cryogenic test campaign, the team responsible for the European NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) confirmed that the instrument had operated very well and that its performance had not been impacted negatively, despite the intensive OTIS test campaign.

- The NIRSpec team was particularly pleased that the instrument's MSA (Micro Shutter Assembly), which comprises approximately 250,000 minuscule 'doors' that enable its Multi-Object Spectrograph capabilities, was in good health, having survived the earlier severe vibration and acoustic testing of OTIS. The performance of the microshutters, which are extremely delicate and can be susceptible to the strong acoustic stresses, could only be verified fully in cryogenic conditions.


Figure 94: Left: The NIRSpec instrument micro shutters – front view. Right: The NIRSpec instrument micro shutters – rear view (image credit: NASA)

- During testing, ESA scientists also commanded the instrument to mimic scientific operations in space and acquired samples of data to verify the spectrograph performance. The testing of OTIS demonstrated that the NIRSpec optics are very stable and ready to withstand the harsh conditions of launch.

- As for the detectors, their performance was confirmed to be "exquisite". Calibration images were acquired during OTIS testing while operating in NIRSpec MOS (Multi-Object Spectrographic) mode, which will allow astronomers to obtain spectra of more than 100 sources simultaneously. A typical calibration image shows many spectra recorded by the NIRSpec detectors and obtained by commanding selected microshutters open, with illumination provided using one of the instrument's internal calibration lamps.

- The calibration image of Figure 95 was acquired during testing of the NIRSpec instrument. NIRSpec will be used to study astronomical objects focussing on very distant galaxies. It will do so by splitting their light into spectra – separating the light into components allows scientists to investigate what these objects are made of.


Figure 95: This abstract image is a preview of the instrumental power that will be unleashed once the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be in space (image credit: ESA/SOT team)

- Created using one of the instrument’s internal calibration lamps as the light source, the image shows many spectra as horizontal bands that were recorded by two detectors,. The wavelengths are spread from left to right; the pattern of dark stripes, called absorption lines, is characteristic of the light source, much like a fingerprint.

- The image was produced by sending commands to open over 100 of the instrument's micro-shutters – minuscule windows the width of a human hair – that will be used to study hundreds of celestial objects simultaneously. The thin strips in the upper and lower parts of the image are spectra created by light that passed through the micro-shutters, while the thicker bands at the center of the images were produced by light that enters the instrument through five slits at the center.

- Once in space, the micro-shutters will be opened or closed depending on the distribution of stars and galaxies in the sky.

- This calibration image was obtained in 2017 during testing in the giant thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The tests demonstrated that the combined structure, comprising the Webb telescope and its four science instruments, operated flawlessly at temperatures of around –233°C, similar to those they will experience in space.

- The telescope and instruments are now at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, where they will be integrated with the spacecraft and sunshield for further tests and launch preparations.

OTIS in the spotlight

- During the OTIS test campaign, the telescope and the instrument module were tested together at their operating temperature for the first time. To take advantage of that, a long suite of tests was performed using dedicated light sources that were temporarily mounted on OTIS.

- These sources, called ASPA (Aft Optical System Plate Assembly) optical stimuli, are used to send a variety of light beams onto the telescope and instrument optics in order to perform true end-to-end testing of the full JWST optical system, something that had not been done before.

- The resulting images and spectra obtained using all four of the Webb's instruments matched remarkably well with the expectations from computer simulations that had been performed several years prior to the actual OTIS test campaign.

- Another set of entirely different measurements also took place in the chamber to assess the stability of the OTIS hardware. Three very high-resolution camera systems, equipped with specially designed flash lamps and mounted on gigantic 3.4 meter-long rotating booms, were used to take multiple photographs of OTIS, tracking the position of hundreds of little reflective targets installed on the OTIS hardware.


Figure 96: The OTIS undergoing cryogenic testing inside Chamber A at NASA's Johnson Space Center in September 2017. A photogrammetry camera was placed inside the chamber to measure the telescope's alignment and to monitor the effect of extremely cold temperature on the black Kapton® material that is fitted to block unwanted light from behind the telescope. Also visible are the hexagonal primary mirror segments. The bright "stars" shining in this long-exposure photograph are photogrammetry targets that were used to measure extremely precise movements of the telescope as it cooled (image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

- The photogrammetry technique was instrumental to measure the miniscule movements and shrinkage of the hardware during the cool down. By doing so, engineers were able to measure positions with an accuracy of only a few tens of µm across the full extent of OTIS, which spans several meters.

- Finally a set of tests was conducted to check that a particular optical path, known as the "rogue path", was blocked. Unlike the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, which is equipped with a tube, JWST has an open, tubeless telescope design, so extra effort has to be spent to make sure that stray light cannot reach its detectors.

- This check was conducted using a third set of special light sources, consisting of arrays of LEDs arranged around the perimeter of the primary mirror. The procedure confirmed that this stray light path is properly blocked.

- After the warm-up inside Chamber A was completed, the actuators for the telescope's primary mirror segment were functionally tested before all 18 of the mirror segments were stowed. This cleared the way for the transportation of OTIS from Houston to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, at the beginning of 2018 (Ref. 135).

• February 05, 2018: The two halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now reside at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, where they will come together to form the complete observatory. 136)

- Webb’s OTIS (Optical Telescope and Integrated Science) instrument module arrived at Northrop Grumman Feb. 2, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it successfully completed cryogenic testing.

- “This is a major milestone,” said Eric Smith, director of the James Webb Space Telescope Program at NASA. “The Webb observatory, which is the work of thousands of scientists and engineers across the globe, will be carefully tested to ensure it is ready to launch and enable scientists to seek the first luminous objects in the universe and search for signs of habitable planets.”

- In preparation for leaving Johnson, OTIS was placed inside a specially designed shipping container called the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS). The container then was loaded onto a U.S. military C-5 Charlie aircraft at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, just outside of Johnson. From there, OTIS took a flight to Los Angeles International Airport. After arrival, OTIS was driven from the airport to Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility (Figure 97).

- “It’s exciting to have both halves of the Webb observatory – OTIS and the integrated spacecraft element – here at our campus,” said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager for Webb at Northrop Grumman. “The team will begin the final stages of integration of the world’s largest space telescope.”

- During this summer, OTIS will combined with the spacecraft element to form the complete Webb observatory. Once the telescope is fully integrated, the entire observatory will undergo more tests during what is called observatory-level testing. Webb is scheduled to launch from Kourou, French Guiana, in 2019.


Figure 97: Photo of the STTARS (Space Telescope for Air, Road, and Sea) container with OTIS inside during unloading from the C-5 Charlie military aircraft at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) on 2 Feb. 2018 (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

Legend to Figure 97: STTARS is a massive container, measuring 4.6 m wide, 5.2 m toll, and 33.5 m long with a mass of 75,000 kg. It’s much larger than the James Webb itself, but even then, the primary mirror wings and the secondary mirror tripod must be folded into flight configuration in order to fit.

• November 13, 2017: Following the recommendation of the Time Allocation Committee and a thorough technical review, the STScI (Space Telescope Science Institute) Director Ken Sembach has selected 13 science programs for the JWST Director’s DD-ERS (Discretionary Early Release Science Program). It is anticipated that the DD-ERS observations will take place during the first 5 months of JWST science operations, following the 6-month commissioning period. 137) 138)

- With a total award of 460 hours of JWST observing time, the selected programs span a wide range of science areas as well as instrument modes, such as surveys of galaxies and their nuclei, stellar clusters and star formation near and far, the chemistry of interstellar and circumstellar matter, and the characterization of exoplanets. The successful programs include 16 Principal investigators (PIs) and co-PIs from North America and 6 from Europe, with broad world-wide participation.

1) The selected programs represent participation by 253 investigators from 18 countries, 22 U.S. states, and 106 unique institutions.

2) Of the 253 investigators, 157 are based in the U.S., 84 are from ESA countries, 7 are from Canada, and 5 are from other countries (Australia and Chile), with 248 unique investigators.

3) There are an additional 456 science collaborators involved in the programs.

4) The three largest teams have combined totals of 138, 105, and 80 investigators and collaborators.

The successful DD-ERS teams are now tasked with developing "science-enabling products," such as documentation for their programs, scientific software, and data products — all designed to help the full astronomical community maximize the science output of the JWST mission.


ERS Program

PI & Co-PIs




Through the Looking GLASS: A JWST
Exploration of Galaxy Formation and Evolution
from Cosmic Dawn to Present Day

PI: Tommaso Treu (University of
California - Los Angeles)

Galaxies and the IGM
(Intergalactic Medium)



The Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science
(CEERS) Survey

PI: Steven Finkelstein (University of Texas at Austin)

Galaxies and the IGM



High Contrast Imaging of Exoplanets and
Exoplanetary Systems with JWST

PI: Sasha Hinkley (University of Exeter)
CoPIs: Andrew Skemer (University of California
-Santa Cruz) and Beth Biller (University of

Planets and Planet



The Transiting Exoplanet Community Early
Release Science Program

PI: Natalie Batalha (NASA Ames Research Center)
CoPIs: Jacob Bean (University of Chicago) and
Kevin Stevenson (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Planets and Planet



Nuclear Dynamics of a Nearby Seyfert with
NIRSpec Integral Field Spectroscopy

PI: Misty Bentz (Georgia State University
Research Foundation)

Massive Black Holes
and their Galaxies



IceAge: Chemical Evolution of Ices during
Star Formation

PI: Melissa McClure (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
CoPIs: Adwin Boogert (University of Hawaii) and
Harold Linnartz (Universiteit Leiden)

Stellar Physics



A JWST Study of the Starburst-AGN
Connection in Merging LIRGs

PI: Lee Armus (California Institute of Technology)

Galaxies and the IGM



TEMPLATES: Targeting Extremely Magnified
Panchromatic Lensed Arcs and Their Extended
Star Formation

PI: Jane Rigby (NASA/GSFC
CoPI: Joaquin Vieira (University of Illinois)

Galaxies and the IGM



ERS observations of the Jovian System as a
Demonstration of JWST’s Capabilities for Solar
System Science

PI: Imke de Pater (University of California
- Berkeley)

Solar System



Q-3D: Imaging Spectroscopy of Quasar Hosts
with JWST Analyzed with a Powerful New PSF
Decomposition and Spectral Analysis Package

PI: Dominika Wylezalek (European Southern
Observatory - Germany)
CoPIs: Sylvain Veilleux (University of Maryland)
and Nadia Zakamska (Johns Hopkins University)

Massive Black Holes
and their Galaxies



The Resolved Stellar Populations Early Release
Science Program

PI: Daniel Weisz (University of California
- Berkeley)

Stellar Populations



Establishing Extreme Dynamic Range with JWST:
Decoding Smoke Signals in the Glare of a
Wolf-Rayet Binary

PI: Ryan Lau (California Institute of Technology)

Stellar Physics



Radiative Feedback from Massive Stars as Traced
by Multiband Imaging and Spectroscopic Mosaics

PI: Olivier Berne (Universite Toulouse)
CoPIs: Emilie Habart (Institut d'Astrophysique
Spatiale) and Els Peeters (University of Western

Stellar Physics


Table 13: List of investigations in the DD-ERS Program


Figure 98: Once deployed, the JWST will conduct a variety of science missions aimed at improving our understanding of the Universe (image credit: NASA/STScI)

• October 19, 2017: What appears to be a unique selfie opportunity was actually a critical photo for the cryogenic testing of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in Chamber A at NASA/JSC (Johnson Space Center) in Houston. The photo (Figure 99) was used to verify the line of sight (the path light will travel) for the testing configuration. 139)

- During Webb’s extensive cryogenic testing, engineers checked the alignment of all the telescope optics and demonstrated the individual primary mirror segments can be properly aligned to each other and to the rest of the system. This all occurred in test conditions that simulated the space environment where Webb will operate, and where it will collect data of never-before-observed portions of the universe. Verifying the optics as a system is a very important step that will ensure the telescope will work correctly in space.

- The actual test of the optics involved a piece of support equipment called the ASPA (AOS Source Plate Assembly). The ASPA is a piece of hardware that sits atop Webb’s AOS (Aft Optics Subsystem), which is recognizable as a black “nose cone” that protrudes from the center of Webb’s primary mirror. The AOS contains the telescope’s tertiary and fine-steering mirrors. The ASPA is ground test hardware, and it will be removed from the telescope before it is launched into space.

- During testing, the ASPA fed laser light of various infrared wavelengths into and out of the telescope, thus acting like a source of artificial stars. In the first part of the optical test, called the “half-pass” test, the ASPA fed laser light straight into the AOS, where it was directed by the tertiary and fine-steering mirrors to Webb’s science instruments, which sit in a compartment directly behind the giant primary mirror. This test let engineers make measurements of the optics inside the AOS, and how the optics interacted with the science instruments. Critically, the test verified the tertiary mirror, which is immovable, was correctly aligned to the instruments.

- In another part of the test, called the “pass-and-a-half” test, light traveled in a reverse path through the telescope optics. The light was again fed into the system from the ASPA, but upwards, to the secondary mirror. The secondary mirror then reflected the light down to the primary mirror, which sent it back up to the top of Chamber A. Mirrors at the top of the chamber sent the light back down again, where it followed its normal path through the telescope to the instruments. This verified not only the alignment of the primary mirror itself but also the alignment of the whole telescope — the primary mirror, secondary mirror, and the tertiary and fine-steering mirrors inside the AOS.

- Taken together, the half-pass and pass-and-a-half tests demonstrated all the telescope optics are properly aligned and that they can be aligned again after being deployed in space.


Figure 99: Ball Aerospace optical engineer Larkin Carey is reflected in the James Webb Space Telescope’s secondary mirror, as he photographs the line of sight for hardware used during an important test of the telescope’s optics image credit: Ball Aerospace)

- The photo, snapped by Ball Aerospace optical engineer Larkin Carey after the final fiber optic connections between ASPA and the laser source outside the chamber were made, verified the line of sight for the pass-and-a-half part of the test. The image was compared with one collected once the telescope was cold inside the chamber, to ensure any observed obscurations were due to the ASPA hardware and would not be present during science data collection on orbit.

- In the photo, Carey is harnessed to a “diving board” over the primary mirror. All tools (including the camera) were tethered, and all safety protocol for working over the mirror were closely followed. Carey faced upwards and took the photo of the secondary mirror to verify the ASPA line of sight. The secondary mirror is reflecting him as well as the AOS, the ASPA, and the primary mirror below.

- “Intricate equipment is required to test an instrument as complex as the Webb telescope. The ASPA allowed us to directly test key alignments to ensure the telescope is working as we expect, but its location meant we had to have a person install over 100 fiber optic cables by hand over the primary mirror,” said Allison Barto, Webb telescope program manager at Ball Aerospace. “This challenging task, which Larkin rehearsed many times to ensure it could be performed safely, also offered the opportunity to check the alignments by taking this ‘selfie’ prior to entering the test.”

- After cryogenic testing at Johnson is complete, Webb’s combined science instruments and optics journey to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, where they will be integrated with the spacecraft element, which is the combined sunshield and spacecraft bus. Together, the pieces form the complete James Webb Space Telescope observatory. Once fully integrated, the entire observatory will undergo more tests during what is called "observatory-level testing." This testing is the last exposure to a simulated launch environment before flight and deployment testing on the whole observatory.

- Webb is expected to launch from Kourou, French Guiana, in the spring of 2019.

• August 24, 2017: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will use its infrared capabilities to study the “ocean worlds” of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, adding to observations previously made by NASA’s Galileo and Cassini orbiters. The Webb telescope’s observations could also help guide future missions to the icy moons. 140)

- Europa (Galilean moon of Jupiter) and Enceladus (moon of Saturn)are on the Webb telescope’s list of targets chosen by guaranteed time observers, scientists who helped develop the telescope and thus get to be among the first to use it to observe the universe. One of the telescope’s science goals is to study planets that could help shed light on the origins of life, but this does not just mean exoplanets; Webb will also help unravel the mysteries still held by objects in our own solar system (from Mars outward).

- Geronimo Villanueva, a planetary scientist at NASA/GSFC in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the lead scientist on the Webb telescope’s observation of Europa and Enceladus. His team is part of a larger effort to study our solar system with the telescope, spearheaded by astronomer Heidi Hammel, the executive vice president of the Association of AURA (Universities for Research in Astronomy). NASA selected Hammel as an interdisciplinary scientist for Webb in 2002.

- Of particular interest to the scientists are the plumes of water that breach the surface of Enceladus and Europa, and that contain a mixture of water vapor and simple organic chemicals. NASA’s Cassini-Huygens and Galileo missions, and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, previously gathered evidence that these jets are the result of geologic processes heating large subsurface oceans. “We chose these two moons because of their potential to exhibit chemical signatures of astrobiological interest,” said Hammel.

- Villanueva and his team plan to use Webb’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam) to take high-resolution imagery of Europa, which they will use to study its surface and to search for hot surface regions indicative of plume activity and active geologic processes. Once they locate a plume, they will use Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) to spectroscopically analyze the plume’s composition.

- Webb telescope’s observations might be particularly telling for the plumes on Europa, the composition of which largely remains a mystery. “Are they made of water ice? Is hot water vapor being released? What is the temperature of the active regions and the emitted water?” questioned Villanueva. “Webb telescope’s measurements will allow us to address these questions with unprecedented accuracy and precision.”

- For Enceladus, Villanueva explained that because that moon is nearly 10 times smaller than Europa as seen from the Webb telescope, high-resolution imagery of its surface will not be possible. However, the telescope can still analyze the molecular composition of Enceladus’ plumes and perform a broad analysis of its surface features. Much of the moon’s terrain has already been mapped by NASA’s Cassini orbiter, which has spent about 13 years studying Saturn and its satellites.

- Villanueva cautioned that while he and his team plan to use NIRSpec to search for organic signatures (such as methane, methanol, and ethane) in the plumes of both moons, there is no guarantee the team will be able to time the Webb telescope’s observations to catch one of the intermittent emissions, nor that the emissions will have a significant organic composition. “We only expect detections if the plumes are particularly active and if they are organic-rich,” said Villanueva.

- Evidence of life in the plumes could prove even more elusive. Villanueva explained that while chemical disequilibrium in the plumes (an unexpected abundance or scarcity of certain chemicals) could be a sign of the natural processes of microbial life, it could also be caused by natural geologic processes.

- While the Webb telescope may be unable to concretely answer whether the subsurface oceans of the moons contain life, Villanueva said it will be able to pinpoint and better characterize active regions of the moons that could merit further study. Future missions, such as NASA’s Europa Clipper, the primary objective of which is to determine if Europa is habitable, could use Webb’s data to hone in on prime locations for observation.


Figure 100: Possible spectroscopy results from one of Europa’s water plumes. This is an example of the data the Webb telescope could return (image credit: NASA-GSFC/SVS, Hubble Space Telescope, Stefanie Milam, Geronimo Villanueva)

• August 9, 2017: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope began a nearly 100-day cryogenic test in a giant chamber in Texas in mid-July. Components of the Webb have previously endured similar tests to ensure they would function in the cold environment of space. Now all of those components are being tested together in the giant thermal vacuum known as Chamber A at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. 141)

- "A combination of liquid nitrogen and cold gaseous helium will be used to cool the telescope and science instruments to their operational temperature during high-vacuum operations," said Mark Voyton, manager of testing effort, who works at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

- Next year, the tennis-court sized sunshield and spacecraft bus will be added to make up the entire observatory.


Figure 101: NASA's JWST sits in Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston awaiting the colossal door to close (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• May 1, 2017: The JWST has successfully passed the center of curvature test, an important optical measurement of Webb's fully assembled primary mirror prior to cryogenic testing, and the last test held at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before the spacecraft is shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for more testing. 142) 143)

- After undergoing rigorous environmental tests simulating the stresses of its rocket launch, the Webb telescope team at Goddard analyzed the results from this critical optical test and compared it to the pre-test measurements. The team concluded that the mirrors passed the test with the optical system unscathed.

- “The Webb telescope is about to embark on its next step in reaching the stars as it has successfully completed its integration and testing at Goddard. It has taken a tremendous team of talented individuals to get to this point from all across NASA, our industry and international partners, and academia,” said Bill Ochs, NASA’s Webb telescope project manager. “It is also a sad time as we say goodbye to the Webb Telescope at Goddard, but are excited to begin cryogenic testing at Johnson.”

- The Webb telescope will be shipped to Johnson for end-to-end optical testing in a vacuum at its extremely cold operating temperatures. Then it will continue on its journey to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for final assembly and testing prior to launch in 2018.

• March 28, 2017: The JWST team completed the acoustic and vibration portions of environmental testing on the telescope at NASA/GSFC. These tests are merely two of the many that spacecraft and instruments endure to ensure they are fit for spaceflight. 144)

- For the acoustic test, the telescope was wrapped in a clean tent, and engineers and technicians pushed it through a large pair of insulated steel doors, nearly 30 cm thick, into the Acoustic Test Chamber. In the chamber the telescope was exposed to the earsplitting noise and resulting vibration of launch.

- A new vibration test system also known as a shaker table, was built specifically for testing the Webb. The Webb was mounted on the shaker table and experienced the simulated forces the telescope will feel during the launch by vibrating it from 5 to 100 times per second. The test ensures a spacecraft like Webb can withstand the vibrations that occur as a result of the ride into space on a rocket.

- This spring, after other environmental tests are completed, the Webb telescope will be shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for end-to-end optical testing in a vacuum at its extremely cold operating temperatures, before it goes to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for final assembly and testing prior to launch.

- By performing these tests, scientists and engineers can ensure that the spacecraft and all of its instruments will endure the launch and maintain functionality when it is launched from French Guiana in 2018.


Figure 102: NASA engineers and technicians perform vibration testing on the James Webb Space Telescope (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• January 25, 2017: Engineers have resumed a series of critical and rigorous vibration qualification tests on JWST at NASA/GSFC. On December 3, 2016, vibration testing automatically shut down early due to some sensor readings that exceeded predicted levels. After a thorough investigation, the JWST team at NASA Goddard determined that the cause was extremely small motions of the numerous tie-downs or “launch restraint mechanisms” that keep one of the telescope’s mirror wings folded-up for launch. 145)

- “In-depth analysis of the test sensor data and detailed computer simulations confirmed that the input vibration was strong enough and the resonance of the telescope high enough at specific vibration frequencies to generate these tiny motions. Now that we understand how it happened, we have implemented changes to the test profile to prevent it from happening again,” said Lee Feinberg, an engineer and James Webb Space Telescope Optical Telescope Element Manager at Goddard. “We have learned valuable lessons that will be applied to the final pre-launch tests of Webb at the observatory level once it is fully assembled in 2018. Fortunately, by learning these lessons early, we’ve been able to add diagnostic tests that let us show how the ground vibration test itself is more severe than the launch vibration environment in a way that can give us confidence that the launch itself will be fully successful.”

- The team resumed testing last week picking up where they left off in December. The test was successfully completed. Now that vibration testing along this one direction or “axis” is finished, the team is now moving forward with shaking the telescope in the other two directions to show that it can withstand vibrations in all three dimensions. “This was a great team effort between the NASA Goddard team, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK, Ball Aerospace, the European Space Agency, and Arianespace,” Feinberg said. “We can now proceed with the rest of the planned tests of the telescope and instruments.”

• January 3, 2017: Vibration tests are one of the many tests that spacecraft and instruments endure to ensure they are fit for spaceflight. During routine testing of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, an unexpected response occurred from several of the more than 100 devices designed to detect small changes in the motion of the structure. This prompted the engineers put the vibration tests on hold to determine the cause. 146)

- Since then, the team of engineers and scientists have analyzed many potential scenarios for the measured responses. They are closer to pinning down the cause, and have successfully conducted three low-level vibrations of the telescope.

- All visual and ultrasonic examinations of the structure continue to show it to be sound. "Currently, the team is continuing their analyses with the goal of having a review of their findings, conclusions and plans for resuming vibration testing in January," said Eric Smith, program director for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, NASA Headquarters in Washington.

- "This is why we test—to know how things really are, as opposed to how we think they are," said Paul Geithner, deputy project manager-technical for the Webb telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

- During the vibration tests on December 3, 2016 at NASA/GSFC, accelerometers attached to the telescope detected unexpected responses and consequently the test shut itself down to protect the hardware.

- The test shut itself down in a fraction of a second after a higher-than-expected response was detected at a particular frequency of vibration, about one note lower than the lowest note on a piano.

- At NASA, vibration and acoustics test facilities provide vibration and shock testing of spaceflight hardware to ensure that functionality is not impaired by severe launch and landing environments. Launches create high levels of vibration in spacecraft and equipment and ground testing is done to simulate that launch induced vibration. Vibration testing is done on components as small as a few ounces to as large as complete structures or systems.

- By performing the vibration tests on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scientists and engineers can ensure that the spacecraft and all of its instruments will endure the launch and maintain functionality when it is launched from French Guiana in 2018.

• November 2, 2016: Engineers and technicians working on the James Webb Space Telescope successfully completed the first important optical measurement of Webb's fully assembled primary mirror, called a Center of Curvature test. 147)

- Taking a "before" optical measurement of the telescope's deployed mirror is crucial before the telescope goes into several stages of rigorous mechanical testing. These tests will simulate the violent sound and vibration environments the telescope will experience inside its rocket on its way out into space. This environment is one of the most stressful structurally and could alter the shape and alignment of Webb's primary mirror, which could degrade or, in the worst case, ruin its performance.

- The JWST has been designed and constructed to withstand its launch environment, but it must be tested to verify that it will indeed survive and not change in any unexpected way. Making the same optical measurements both before and after simulated launch environment testing and comparing the results is fundamental to Webb's development, assuring that it will work in space.

- "This is the only test of the entire mirror where we can use the same equipment during a before and after test," said Ritva Keski-Kuha, the test lead and NASA's Deputy Telescope Manager for Webb at NASA/GSFC in Greenbelt, Maryland. "This test will show if there are any changes or damages to the optical system."

- In order to conduct the test, optical engineers set up an interferometer, the main device used to measure the shape of Webb's mirror. Waves of visible light are less than a thousandth of a millimeter long, and optics like Webb's need to be shaped and aligned even more accurately than this to work correctly. Making measurements of the mirror shape and position by lasers prevents physical contact and damage (scratches to the mirror). So scientists use wavelengths of light to make tiny measurements. By measuring light reflected off the optics using an interferometer, they are able to measure extremely small changes in shape or position. An interferometer gets its name from the process of recording and measuring the ripple patterns that result when different beams of light mix and their waves combine or 'interfere.'

- During the test conducted by a team from NASA Goddard, Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado, and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore Maryland, temperature and humidity conditions in the cleanroom were kept incredibly stable to minimize drift in the sensitive optical measurements over time. Even so, tiny vibrations are ever-present in the cleanroom that cause jitter during measurements, so the interferometer is a 'high-speed' one, taking 5,000 'frames' every second, which is a faster rate than the background vibrations themselves. This allows engineers to subtract out jitter and get good, clean results.

- The Center of Curvature test measures the shape of Webb's main mirror by comparing light reflected off of it with light from a computer-generated hologram that represents what Webb's mirror ideally should be. By interfering the beam of light from Webb with the beam from the hologram reference, the interferometer accurately compares the two by measuring the difference to incredible precision. "Interferometry using a computer-generated hologram is a classic modern optical test used to measure mirrors," said Keski-Kuha.

- With the largest mirror of any space telescope, taking this measurement is a challenge. "We have spent the last four years preparing for this test," said David Chaney, Webb's primary mirror metrology lead at Goddard. "The challenges of this test include the large size of the primary mirror, the long radius of curvature, and the background noise. Our test is so sensitive we can measure the vibrations of the mirrors due to people talking in the room."

- After the measurements come back from the interferometer the team will analyze the data to make sure the mirrors are aligned perfectly before the launch environment tests. The Center of Curvature test will be repeated after the launch environment testing and the results compared to confirm that Webb's optics will work after their launch into space.

- The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.


Figure 103: Engineers conduct a 'Center of Curvature' test on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in the clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• October 31, 2016: The last of the five sunshield layers responsible for protecting the optics and instruments of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now complete. Designed by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, the Webb telescope’s sunshield will prevent the background heat from the sun from interfering with the telescope’s infrared sensors. The five sunshield membrane layers, designed and manufactured by the NeXolve Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama, are each as thin as a human hair. The layers work together to reduce the temperatures between the hot and cold sides of the observatory by approximately 300ºC. Each successive layer of the sunshield, made of Kapton, is cooler than the one below. The fifth and final layer was delivered on Sept. 29, 2016 to Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Space Park facility in Redondo Beach. 148)

- “The completed sunshield membranes are the culmination of years of collaborative effort by the NeXolve, Northrop Grumman and NASA team," said James Cooper, Webb telescope Sunshield manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "All five layers are beautifully executed and exceed their requirements. This is another big milestone for the Webb telescope project.”

- Northrop Grumman, who also designed the Webb telescope’s optics and spacecraft bus for NASA Goddard will integrate the final flight layers into the sunshield subsystem to conduct folding and deployment testing as part of the final system validation process. The sunshield is the size of a tennis court, helping solidify the Webb telescope as the largest ever built for space. The sunshield, along with the rest of the spacecraft, will fold origami-style into an Ariane 5 rocket.

- “The five tennis court-sized sunshield membranes took more than three years to complete and represents a decade of design, development and manufacturing,” said Greg Laue, sunshield program manager at NeXolve.


Figure 104: Photo of the JWST sunshield at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility in Redondo Beach, California (image credit: Northrop Grumman)

• May 24, 2016: With surgical precision, two dozen engineers and technicians successfully installed the package of science instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope into the telescope structure (Figure 105). The package is the collection of cameras and spectrographs that will record the light collected by Webb’s giant golden mirror. 149)

- Inside the world’s largest clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the team crane-lifted the heavy science instrument package, lowered it into an enclosure on the back of the telescope, and secured it to the telescope.

- Now that the instruments, mirrors, and telescope structure have been assembled, the combination will go through vibration and acoustic tests in order to ensure the whole science payload will withstand the conditions of launch.


Figure 105: In this view, the James Webb Space Telescope team crane lifted the science instrument package for installation into the telescope structure (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• April 27, 2016: NASA engineers recently unveiled the giant golden mirror of NASA's JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) as part of the integration and testing of the infrared telescope. The 18 mirrors that make up the primary mirror were individually protected with a black covers when they were assembled on the telescope structure. Now, for the first time since the primary mirror was completed, the covers have been lifted. 150)

- Scientists from around the world will use this unique observatory to capture images and spectra of not only the first galaxies to appear in the early universe over 13.5 billion years ago, but also the full range of astronomical sources such as star forming nebulae, exoplanets, and even moons and planets within our own Solar System. To ensure the mirror is both strong and light, the team made the mirrors out of beryllium. Each mirror segment is about the size of a coffee table and weighs approximately 20 kg. A very fine film of vaporized gold coats each segment to improve the mirror's reflection of infrared light. The fully assembled mirror is larger than any rocket so the two sides of it fold up. Behind each mirror are several motors so that the team can focus the telescope out in space.


Figure 106: Standing tall and glimmering gold inside the NASA/GSFC clean room in Greenbelt, Maryland is the James Webb Space Telescope primary mirror. It will be the largest yet sent into space (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• March 21, 2016: After over a year of planning, nearly four months of final cryo testing and monitoring, the testing on the science instruments module of the observatory was completed. They were removed from a giant thermal vacuum chamber at NASA/GSFC in Greenbelt, Maryland called the SES (Space Environment Simulator) that duplicates the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space. The SES is a 12 m tall, 8.3 m diameter cylindrical chamber that eliminates almost all of the air with vacuum pumps and uses liquid nitrogen and even colder gaseous helium to drop the temperature. 151)

- The testing is critical because at these instrument’s final destination in space at L2, 1.5 million km away from Earth, it will operate at incredibly cold temperatures of 40 K. The science instrument modules tested consist of MIRI (Mid Infrared Instrument), jointly developed by a nationally funded European Consortium under the auspices of ESA (European Space Agency) and the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory); NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectrometer), jointly developed by Airbus for ESA and the U.S.; FGS/NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near-InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph), provided by CSA (Canadian Space Agency) and developed by COM DEV International, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada; and NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera), built by a team at the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center.

• March 7, 2016: The sole secondary mirror that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope was installed onto the telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on March 3, 2016. 152)

• Feb. 24, 2016: The year 2015 marked big progress on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and there are still a number of large milestones before the next generation telescope is launched in 2018. Recently, all of the 18 segments of the Webb telescope primary mirror segments were installed on the observatory's backplane at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. But that's just one component of the Webb. 153)

- Over the next two years, more components of the Webb will be integrated onto the spacecraft and it will visit three more locations before launch. "From 2016 to 2018, there are installations and tests for the telescope and the telescope plus the instruments, followed by shipping to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where end-to-end optical testing in a simulated cryo-temperature and vacuum space environment will occur," said Paul Geithner, Webb telescope manager - Technical, at NASA Goddard. “Then all the parts will be shipped to Northrop Grumman for final assembly and testing, then to French Guiana for launch.”

- The two largest parts of the observatory are the primary mirror and the tennis-court-sized sunshield. Additionally, there are four scientific instruments—cameras and spectrographs with detectors able to record extremely faint signals—that will fly aboard Webb. All four flight science instruments were integrated into the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) in March 2014 and since have been undergoing multiple tests. However, the ISIM has not yet been added to the observatory.

- Over the next year, teams at Goddard will work to complete the telescope by installing the other optics in addition to the primary mirror segments. The other optics include installing the aft-optics subsystem or AOS, secondary mirror and both fixed and deployed radiators. Once complete, engineers will connect the Telescope and instruments together when the ISIM is attached to the observatory.

- Testing is a continuous part of the assembly process. "After the mating of the ISIM, to the Telescope there will be a room-temperature optical check before a simulated launch environment exposure," Geithner said. That means the observatory will undergo vibration and acoustic testing to ensure it can endure the sound and shaking that occurs during launch. After those tests, there is yet another room-temperature optical check.

- Once all of those milestones are accomplished, the observatory will then be prepared and flown to NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. At Johnson, the observatory will endure end-to-end optical testing in a simulated cryo-temperature and vacuum space environment in Chamber-A. Chamber-A is NASA's giant thermal vacuum chamber where the Webb telescope pathfinder or non-flight replica was tested in April 2015.

- After NASA/JSC, the Webb telescope will be then transported to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California where engineers will connect the telescope and instruments together with the spacecraft and sunshield to form the complete Observatory. Once every component is together, more testing is done. That testing is called "Observatory-level testing." It's the last exposure to a simulated launch environment before flight and deployment testing on the whole observatory.

- What follows the flight and deployment testing is the shipping of the complete observatory to the launch site in South America where the Webb telescope is slated to launch in 2018.

• At NASA/GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center):

- Aft-Optics System installation

- Secondary mirror installation

- ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) installation into Telescope Structure

- Metrology test of Telescope and Instruments

- Vibration test of Telescope and Instruments

- Acoustic test of Telescope and Instruments

• At NASA/JSC (Johnson Space Center):

- Optical test of Telescope and Instruments in Chamber A

• At Northrop Grumman:

- Assemble Spacecraft Element

- Finish Sunshield and Integrate into Spacecraft

- Assembling entire Observatory (Telescope and Instruments and Spacecraft)

- Observatory-level tests

- Transport to French Guiana

Table 14: A general list of milestones before launch (Ref. 153)

• February 4, 2016: The 18th and final primary mirror segment is installed on what will be the biggest and most powerful space telescope ever launched. The final mirror installati at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland marks an important milestone in the assembly of the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope. 154)

- Using a robotic arm reminiscent of a claw machine, the team meticulously installed all of Webb's primary mirror segments onto the telescope structure. Each of the hexagonal-shaped mirror segments measures just 1.3 m across with a mass of ~40 kg. Once in space and fully deployed, the 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 6.5 m diameter mirror.

- The mirrors were built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colorado. Ball is the principal subcontractor to Northrop Grumman for the optical technology and optical system design. The installation of the mirrors onto the telescope structure is performed by Harris Corporation, a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman. Harris Corporation leads integration and testing for the telescope.


Figure 107: In this rare view, the JWST's 18 mirrors are seen fully installed on the JWST structure at NASA/GSFC in Greenbelt (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• Dec. 28, 2015: As the year 2015 comes to an end, the assembly of the JWST reached the halfway point in the installation of the primary mirrors onto the telescope structure. Technicians have just installed the ninth of 18 primary flight mirrors onto the mirror holding backplane structure at the NASA/GSFC in Greenbelt, MD. 155)


Figure 108: This overhead photo of JWST shows the nine primary flight mirrors installed on the telescope structure in a clean room at NASA/GSFC (image credit: NASA/GSFC, Chris Gunn)

• Nov. 25, 2015: NASA has successfully installed the first of 18 flight mirrors onto the James Webb Space Telescope, beginning a critical piece of the observatory’s construction. In the clean room at NASA/GSFC this week, the engineering team used a robot arm to lift and lower the hexagonal-shaped segment that measures just over 1.3 m with a mass of ~40 kg. After being pieced together, the 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 6.5 m mirror. The full installation is expected to be complete early next year. 156)


Figure 109: An engineer at NAS/GSFC worked to install the first flight mirror onto the telescope structure (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• Nov. 16, 2015: Inside the clean room at NASA/GSFC, engineers successfully completed two deployments for the James Webb Space Telescope's "wings" or side portions of the backplane structure that fold up. The wings and telescope structure are essential because they make up the telescope's carbon fiber framework which will hold all 18 of the telescope's mirrors and the tower for the primary mirror.157)

- "We deploy the wings one at a time. Each individual deployment can take up to 16 hours or more to complete," said Adam Carpenter, Mechanical Integration Engineer at Goddard, as he and other engineers prepared for the move. "It is a delicate operation requiring multiple groups to perform specific tasks." Leading up to this test, engineers lined the telescope structure with cables. In space, these cables will enable the telescope to open up and will provide electrical signals to the active the mirror segments. During the wing test, however, the engineers needed to make sure the cables did not block the deployment, and so the team arranged the cables carefully.

- "The two wings of the telescope structure will eventually hold 6 of Webb's 18 primary mirror segment assemblies," said Carpenter said. "They are necessary so that the observatory can fold up in order to fit into the launch vehicle." The James Webb Space telescope, once fully assembled, will be bigger than any rocket that can launch the telescope into space. So the engineering team designed the telescope to fold like origami to fit inside its Ariane 5 rocket.


Figure 110: Engineers successfully completed two deployments for the James Webb Space Telescope's "wings" or side portions of the backplane structure that fold up (image credit: NASA)

• October 8, 2015: Northrop Grumman is reporting that the manufacturing and assembly of the JWST spacecraft structure was successfully completed July 1 at NGC's (Northrop Grumman Corporation's) Redondo Beach facility (Figure 111). 158)

- The bus must withstand a force equivalent to 45 tons while supporting the observatory during launch. The spacecraft structure integrates the system's optical telescope, sunshield, and instrument electronics and mounts the whole observatory to the Ariane 5 rocket — tasked with launching the Webb Telescope to its destination in space. To launch such a large observatory out to the L2 orbit 1.5 km away, the structure must also be of very low mass so its mass efficiency allows it to carry 64 times its own mass.


Figure 111: Photo of the JWST bus structure which is made of carbon fiber composites and houses the spacecraft propulsion, electrical power and the communication systems (image credit: NGC, NASA)

• Sept. 16, 2015: The flight structure of NASA's JWST was standing tall on a platform in the cleanroom at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland on August 30 (Figure 112). The telescope structure includes the primary mirror backplane assembly; the main backplane support fixture; and the deployable tower structure that lifts the telescope off of the spacecraft. The three arms at the top come together into a ring where the secondary mirror will reside. 159)

- Standing tall and standing up in the stowed-for-launch configuration as it appears in this photo, the complete telescope structure stretches about 8 m from its base on the roll-over fixture to the secondary mirror support at the top. There is a yellow fixture at the bottom of the telescope structure that is designed to secure the bottom of the tower until the telescope structure is mounted on the spacecraft.

- In late fall, Webb's hexagonal flight mirrors will be placed by a robotic arm onto the backplane, which will hold the hexagonal mirrors and instruments steady while the telescope is looking into deep space. Together, those 18 mirrors make up Webb's 6.5 m diameter "primary mirror." Along with the secondary, tertiary, and fine steering mirrors, this primary mirror comprises a telescope that will help scientists observe the formation of the first stars and galaxies over 13.5 billion years ago.

- In addition to the primary mirror, the backplane will also be carrying 2400 kg of telescope optics and instruments. The backplane must keep the mirrors motionless in order to get clear images far in deep space. It was engineered to remain stationary down to about 1/10,000 the diameter of a human hair (32 nm) at temperatures colder than -240°C, such as those experienced in space.

- The flight backplane arrived at Goddard after undergoing integration and testing at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California. ATK designed, engineered and constructed the backplane at its facilities in Magna, Utah. Once the backplane arrived, it was inspected by engineers and then set upright using a giant crane in the clean room.


Figure 112: Photo of the JWST in the cleanroom of NASA/GSFC (image credit: NASA, C. Gunn)

• August 12, 2015: The sunshield on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the largest part of the observatory—five layers of thin, silvery membrane that must unfurl reliably in space. The precision in which the tennis-court sized sunshield has to open must be no more than a few centimeters different from its planned position (Figure 113). 160)

- The sunshield separates the observatory into a warm sun-facing side and a cold side where the sunshine is blocked from interfering with the sensitive infrared instruments. The infrared instruments need to be kept very cold (under 50 K to operate. The sunshield protects these sensitive instruments with an effective SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 1,000,000. A sunscreen generally has an SPF of 8 to 50.


Figure 113: In this photo, engineers and scientists examine the sunshield layers on this full-sized test unit. Because there's a layer of the shiny silver material on the base under the five layers of the sunshield, it appears as if the sunshield has a mouth that is "open wide" while engineers take a look. The photo was taken in a clean room at Northrop Grumman Corporation, Redondo Beach, California.. (image credit: NASA)

• Summer 2015: The JWST team has just successfully completed the first of three planned, large-scale pathfinder tests at the Chamber A facility at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. These tests are designed to verify the operation of the support and test equipment as well as check critical alignment and test procedures, train personnel, and improve test efficiency in preparation for the final, full scale flight testing of JWST scheduled for Winter, 2016-2017. 161)

- This first pathfinder test, denoted OGSE1 (Optical Ground Support Equipment test 1), incorporated an engineering version of the JWST composite backplane (the mounting and support system for the telescope), two spares of the eighteen primary mirror segments and a flight spare secondary mirror and support structure.

- The next pathfinder test (OGSE2 - currently scheduled for Fall, 2015) will add the flight AOS (Aft-Optics-System) incorporating the flight tertiary and fine steering mirrors as well as a set of precisely located sources ASPA (AOS Source Plate Assembly) which will be imaged through the telescope system.

- A third, primarily thermal model validation pathfinder, is scheduled for testing in spring 2016.

• April 20, 2015: Inside NASA's giant thermal vacuum chamber, called Chamber A, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the James Webb Space Telescope's Pathfinder backplane test model, is being prepared for its cryogenic test. Previously used for manned spaceflight missions, this historic chamber is now filled with engineers and technicians preparing for a crucial test. Exelis developed and installed the optical test equipment in the chamber. 162)

- "This will be the first time on the program that we will be aligning two primary mirror segments together," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element Manager. "In the past, we have always tested one mirror at a time, but this time we will use a single test system and align both mirrors to it as though they are a single monolithic mirror."


Figure 114: Photo of the JWST telescope pathfinder backplane test model in Chamber A at NASA/JSC (Johnson Space Center) in Houston (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• March 17-18, 2015: John Durning, JWST Deputy Program Manager, presented a current general status of the JWST project at the Astrophysics Subcommittee Meeting . He remarked that the schedule is healthy, with 10 months of critical path slack. The milestones are such that a lot of hardware will be delivered in FY16. Almost all hardware has passed critical design review (CDR). There was a late thermal challenge with the radiator, but that is catching up. The mission is deep into building and testing at this point. 163) 164)

- OTE (Optical Telescope Element): The flight telescope build begins in August 2015. All flight backplane components are built and are at Northrop Grumman for integration.

- The sunshield is making good progress and the team has done a practice deployment, including integration onto a practice spacecraft. There is a lot of testing and verification going on, as this is a key risk reduction activity. The flight membranes are in varying levels of completion.

- Four instruments make up the ISIM payload: the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) from Canada, the MIRI from Europe, the Near Infra-Red Camera (NIRCam), and the Near Infra-Red Spectrometer (NIRSpec). The spacecraft is not as far along in integration and testing, but the components are coming together.

- There will be three risk reductions tests this year for the Optical Telescope and ISIM (OTIS). Each test establishes the procedures and processes for higher- level assembly, giving confidence that the procedures work.

- Two of the three MIRI cryocooler components have been delivered, but the compressor assembly is taking longer than expected. Still, it should be delivered to JPL this summer. On the NIRSpec microshutter control electronics, there was a shorted wire during testing. The team is therefore rebuilding the affected board and the adjacent board; these will be delivered next month. The NIRCam detector system tests found that two of the four detector chips on one of the instrument channels had anomalous readings. Replacement of those units will be completed by the end of the month.


Figure 115: Simplified schedule of the JWST project (image credit: NASA, John Durning)

• The Figure 116 is a photo of the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module), released by ESA on March 2, 2015. ISIM is a structure containing the four science infrared instruments of JWST. The JWST team hit a milestone in the summer of 2014 as all four science instruments passed their cryogenic testing in this chamber, the SES (Space Environment Simulator). The three near-infrared units were cooled to around –233°C, while the MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) reached an even lower –266°C, for a total of 116 days. 165)


Figure 116: The gold-colored structure is the ISIM inside the Goddard Thermal Vacuum Chamber (image credit: NASA/GSFC, C. Gunn)

Legend to Figure 116: The photographer, wielding a torch at the bottom of the SES, took his picture of ISM prior to the cooling test in 2014.

• Oct. 21, 2014: After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) and its sensitive instruments, emerged unscathed from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA/GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) in Greenbelt, Maryland. 166)

- SES (Space Environment Simulator) is the name of the massive thermal vacuum chamber, that duplicates the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space. SES is a cylindrical chamber of 12 m in height and 8.3 m in diameter which was kept at a temperature of 40 K during the ISIM test. SES eliminates the tiniest trace of air with vacuum pumps and uses liquid nitrogen and even colder liquid helium to drop the temperature simulating the space environment.

- These tests were conducted to make sure that when JWST cools down in space, the four instruments of ISIM are still positioned meticulously so that when light enters the telescope, it is captured in the right way. Paul Geithner, the JWST deputy project manger, commented: "The biggest stress for this telescope will be when it cools down. When the telescope structure goes from room temperature to its super cold operating temperature (of ~ 35 K), it will see more stress from shrinkage than it will from violent vibration during launch.”

- Once the test was completed, the team warmed up the chamber, and completed the final functional test and a series of data analyses before they opened up the chamber.


Figure 117: A crane lifts ISIM, the heart of the JWST, from the Goddard Thermal Vacuum Chamber where it spent 116 days in a space-like environment (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• In July 2014, the sunshield of JWST was fully and successfully tested for the first time, at a cleanroom in the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, CA, USA. 167) 168)

The Sunshield is the largest part of the Webb telescope (about the size of a tennis court). The five layers of thin membrane called Kapton, that feels like a Mylar balloon, must unfurl reliably in space like a parasol. The sunshield provides a cold-side stable environment of < 50 K to permit in particular top quality measurements of the instruments in the far infrared region of the spectrum. - The Sunshield will be folded up like an umbrella around the Webb telescope’s mirrors and instruments during launch. Once it reaches its orbit, the Webb telescope will receive a command from Earth to unfold, and separate the sunshield's five layers into their precisely stacked arrangement with its kite-like shape.

Thanks to the sunshield, these low temperatures are reached passively, without the help of any active cooling system, by re-radiating the sun's heat into deep space. Just one of JWST's instruments, MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), will be cooled even further by a dedicated cryogenic cooler, reaching around 7 K (–266 ºC ). Although parts of JWST will reach such low temperatures, the shield will create a thermal barrier so that on JWST’s ‘hot’ side, the spacecraft electronics can work at room temperature.


Figure 118: Photo of the fully deployed sunshield in the Northrop Grumman cleanroom (image credit: NASA, Chris Gunn)

• During the summer of 2014, a milestone event in the JWST test program is underway: the first of two cryo-verification tests of the complete ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module). Pumpdown for this critical test began a few weeks ago in Goddard’s largest thermal-vacuum chamber, the SES (Space Environment Simulator). The team expects the test will continue for about 110 days. 169)

• In August 2014, the central piece of the “pathfinder” backplane that will hold all the mirrors for JWST, has arrived at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland for critical assembly testing on vital parts of the mammoth telescope. 170)

• In July 2014, the JWST has reached another development milestone with the completion of static load testing of its primary mirror backplane support structure (PMBSS) moving the telescope one step closer to its 2018 launch. The PMBSS is the stable platform that holds the telescope's science instruments and the 18 beryllium mirror-segments that form the 6.5 m diameter primary mirror nearly motionless while the telescope peers into deep space. The primary mirror is the largest mirror in the telescope — the one starlight will hit first. 171)

• In January 2014, JWST has passed its first significant mission milestone for 2014, the SCDR (Spacecraft Critical Design Review) that examined the telescope's power, communications and pointing control systems. 172) 173) 174)

During the SCDR, the details, designs, construction and testing plans, and the spacecraft's operating procedures were subjected to rigorous review by an independent panel of experts. The week-long review involved extensive discussions on all aspects of the spacecraft to ensure the plans to finish construction would result in a vehicle that enables the powerful telescope and science instruments to deliver their unique and invaluable views of the universe.

Introduction of JWST spinoff technologies:

In the timeframe 2010/12, new technologies developed for NASA's JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) have already been adapted and applied to commercial applications in various industries including optics, aerospace, astronomy, medical and materials. Some of these technologies can be explored for use and licensed through NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. - Note: NASA's JWST is also simply referred to as the Webb. 175) 176)

1) Optics Industry: Telescopes, Cameras and More

The optics industry has been the beneficiary of a new stitching technique that is an improved method for measuring large aspheres. An asphere is a lens whose surface profiles are not portions of a sphere or cylinder. In photography, a lens assembly that includes an aspheric element is often called an aspherical lens.

Stitching is a method of combining several measurements of a surface into a single measurement by digitally combining the data as though it has been "stitched" together.

Because NASA depends on the fabrication and testing of large, high-quality aspheric (nonspherical) optics for applications like the JWST, it sought an improved method for measuring large aspheres. Through SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) awards from NASA/GSFC, QED Technologies, of Rochester, New York, upgraded and enhanced its stitching technology for aspheres.

QED developed the SSI-A® (Subaperture Stitching Interferometer for Aspheres) metrology technology, which earned the company an "R and D 100" award, and also developed a breakthrough machine tool called the aspheric stitching interferometer. The equipment is applied to advanced optics in telescopes, microscopes, cameras, medical scopes, binoculars, and photolithography.

2) Aerospace and Astronomy

In the aerospace and astronomy industries, the JWST program gave 4D Technology its first commercial contract to develop the PhaseCam interferometer system, which measures the quality of the JWST telescope's mirror segments in a cryogenic vacuum environment. This is a new way of using interferometers in the aerospace sector.

• The PhaseCam interferometer verified that the surfaces of the JWST telescope's mirror segments were as close to perfect as possible, and that they will remain that way in the cold vacuum of space. To test the Webb mirror segments, they were placed in a "cryovac" environment, where air is removed by a vacuum pump and temperatures are dropped to the extreme cold of deep space that the space craft will experience. A new dynamic interferometric technique with very short exposures that are not smeared by vibration was necessary to perform these measurements to the accuracy required, particularly in the high-vibration environment caused by the vacuum chamber's pumps. - The interferometer resulting from this NASA partnership can be used to evaluate future mirrors that need to be tested in vacuum chambers where vibration is a problem.

• Restoring Hubble: Integrated circuits used in camera repair. Webb investments in cryogenic ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) led to the development of the ASICs that are now flying on the Hubble Space Telescope. This is a unique example of “future heritage”: a program in development (Webb) invented a technology for a program well into the operations phase (Hubble). Webb’s investments into this technology allowed the ASICs to be programmable, which was important in the repair of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys that has produced stunning views of our universe.

• Astronomical Detectors: The benefits of the near-infrared detectors developed for Webb’s instruments have already spread far and wide in the world of science. “Infrared sensors based on the technology developed for Webb are now the universal choice for astronomical observations, both from space and the ground,” said Dr. James Beletic, Senior Director at Teledyne. This technology is also being used for Earth science and national security missions. An early pathfinder version of Webb’s HAWAII-2RG 4 Megapixel array has been used in several NASA missions including Hubble, Deep Impact/EPOXI, WISE, and the OCO-2 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2), and the HAWAII-2RG is already in use at dozens of ground-based observatories around the world. The availability of these high-performance detectors developed for Webb has been critical to a breathtaking collection of missions, both present and future (Ref. 176).

3) Medical Industry: Eye Health

New "wavefront" optical measurement devices and techniques were created for making the JWST telescope mirrors. Those have led to spinoffs in the medical industry where precise measurements are critical in eye health, for example.

• The technology came about to accurately measure the JWST primary mirror segments during manufacturing. Scientists at AMO WaveFront Sciences, LLC of Albuquerque, N.M. developed a new "wavefront" measurement device called a Scanning Shack Hartmann Sensor.

• The optical measuring technology developed for the JWST, called "wavefront sensing" has been applied to the measurement of the human eye and allowed for significant improvements.

• "The Webb telescope program has enabled a number of improvements in measurement of human eyes, diagnosis of ocular diseases and potentially improved surgery," said Dan Neal, Director of Research and Development AMO (Abbott Medical Optics Inc.) in Albuquerque, N.M. The Webb improvements have enabled eye doctors to get much more detailed information about the shape and "topography" of the eye in seconds rather than hours.

4) Materials Industry: Measuring Strength

The JWST technologies have opened the door to better measurement in testing the strength of composite materials. Measuring strain in composite materials is the same as measuring how much they change in certain environments. Measuring step heights allows one to understand very small changes in a surface profile and doing all of this at high speed allows the device to work even in the presence of vibration that would normally blur the results.

"Technology developed for the Webb telescope has also helped 4D Technologies, Inc. to develop unique technology to measure strain in composite materials, to measure step heights in precision machined surfaces, and for high speed wavefront detection," said James Millerd, President, 4D Technology Corporation, Tucson, AZ.

The Webb telescope technologies have also been beneficial to the economy. The technologies have enabled private sector companies such as 4D to generate significant revenue and create high-skill jobs. Much of 4D's growth from a two man start-up to over 35 people can be traced to projects originally developed for the telescope. 4D has also been able to adapt these technologies for a wide range of applications within the astronomy, aerospace, semiconductor and medical industries.

Feature Stories of the Solar System and Beyond

• July 31 2020: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will have a challenging early assignment in the solar system: observe the largest, fastest-rotating planet—Jupiter—as well as its faint rings and two of the four Galilean satellites: icy Ganymede and fiery Io. In addition to laying groundwork for the rest of Webb’s mission, the ambitious program should yield new scientific insights, not only into the Jovian system, but also the geological history of Earth and exoplanet science. 177)

Jupiter, named for the king of the ancient Roman gods, commands its own mini-version of our solar system of circling satellites; their movements convinced Galileo Galilei that Earth is not the center of the universe in the early 17th century. More than 400 years later, astronomers will use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to observe these famous subjects, pushing the observatory’s instruments to their fullest capabilities and laying the groundwork for far-reaching scientific discovery.

A diverse team of more than 40 researchers, led by astronomers Imke de Pater of the University of California, Berkeley and Thierry Fouchet of the Observatoire de Paris, have designed an ambitious observing program that will conduct some of Webb’s first scientific observations in the solar system—studying Jupiter, its ring system, and two of its moons: Ganymede and Io.

“It will be a really challenging experiment,” said de Pater. “Jupiter is so bright, and Webb’s instruments are so sensitive, that observing both the bright planet and its fainter rings and moons will be an excellent test of how to get the most out of Webb’s innovative technology.”


Figure 119: Jupiter and Io. The moon Io orbits Jupiter in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Io is similar in size to Earth’s moon. Jupiter and Io appear deceptively close in this image, when in fact the moon is orbiting 217,000 miles from the gas giant planet (image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Jupiter: In addition to calibrating Webb’s instruments for Jupiter’s brightness, astronomers must also take into account the planet’s rotation, because Jupiter completes one day in only 10 hours. Several images must be stitched together in a mosaic to fully capture a certain area—the famous storm known as the Great Red Spot, for example—a task made more difficult when the object itself is moving. While many telescopes have studied Jupiter and its storms, Webb’s large mirror and powerful instruments will provide new insights.

We know that the immediate atmosphere above the Great Red Spot is colder than other areas of Jupiter, but at higher altitudes, in the mesosphere, the atmosphere appears to be warmer. We will use Webb to investigate this phenomenon,” de Pater said.

Webb will also examine the atmosphere of the polar region, where NASA’s Juno spacecraft discovered clusters of cyclones. Webb’s spectroscopic data will provide much more detail than has been possible in past observations, measuring winds, cloud particles, gas composition, and temperature.

Future solar system observations of the giant planets with Webb will benefit from the lessons learned in these early observations of the Jovian system. The team is tasked with developing methods for working with Webb observations of solar system planets, which can be used later by other scientists.

Rings: All four of the gas giant planets of the solar system have rings, with Saturn’s being the most prominent. Jupiter’s ring system is composed of three parts: a flat main ring; a halo inside the main ring, shaped like a double-convex lens; and the gossamer ring, exterior to the main ring. Jupiter’s ring system is exceptionally faint because the particles that make up the rings are so small and sparse that they do not reflect much light. Next to the brightness of the planet they practically disappear, presenting a challenge for astronomers.

“We are really pushing the capabilities of some of Webb’s instruments to the limit to get a unique new set of observations,” said co-investigator Michael Wong of the University of California, Berkeley. The team will test observing strategies to deal with Jupiter’s scattered light, and build models for use by other astronomers, including those studying exoplanets orbiting bright stars.

The team will look to make new discoveries in the rings as well. De Pater noted that there may be undiscovered “ephemeral moonlets” in the dynamic ring system, and potential ripples in the ring from comet impacts, like those observed and traced back to the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994.

Ganymede: Several features of icy Ganymede make it fascinating for astronomers. Aside from being the largest moon in the solar system, and larger even than the planet Mercury, it is the only moon known to have its own magnetic field. The team will investigate the very outer parts of Ganymede’s atmosphere, its exosphere, to better understand the moon’s interaction with particles in Jupiter’s magnetic field.

There is also evidence that Ganymede may have a liquid saltwater ocean beneath its thick surface ice, which Webb will investigate with detailed spectroscopic study of surface salts and other compounds. The team’s experience studying Ganymede’s surface may be useful in the future study of other icy solar system moons suspected of having subsurface oceans, including Saturn’s moon Enceladus and fellow Jovian satellite Europa.

Io: In dramatic contrast to Ganymede is the other moon the team will study, Io, the most volcanically active world in the solar system. The dynamic surface is covered with hundreds of huge volcanoes that would dwarf those on Earth, as well as lakes of molten lava and smooth floodplains of solidified lava. Astronomers plan to use Webb to learn more about the effects of Io’s volcanoes on its atmosphere.

“There is still much we don’t know about Io’s atmospheric temperature structure, because we haven’t had the data to distinguish the temperature at different altitudes,” said de Pater. “On Earth we take for granted that as you hike up a mountain, the air gets cooler—would it be the same on Io? Right now we don’t know, but Webb may help us to find out.”

Another mystery Webb will investigate on Io is the existence of “stealth volcanoes,” which emit plumes of gas without the light-reflecting dust that can be detected by spacecraft like NASA’s Voyager and Galileo missions, and so have thus far gone undetected. Webb’s high spatial resolution will be able to isolate individual volcanoes that previously would have appeared as one large hotspot, allowing astronomers to gather detailed data on Io’s geology.

Webb will also provide unprecedented data on the temperature of Io’s hotspots, and determine if they are closer to volcanism on Earth today, or if they have a much higher temperature, similar to the environment on Earth in the early years after its formation. Previous observations by the Galileo mission and ground observatories have hinted at these high temperatures; Webb will follow up on that research and provide new evidence that may settle the question.

Team Effort: Webb’s detailed observations will not supplant those of other observatories, but rather coordinate with them, Wong explained. “Webb’s spectroscopic observations will cover just a small area of the planet, so global views from ground-based observatories can show how the detailed Webb data fit in with what’s happening on a larger scale, similar to how Hubble and the Gemini Observatory provide context for Juno’s narrow, close-up observations.”

In turn, Webb’s study of Jupiter’s storms and atmosphere will complement Juno data, including radio signals from lightning, which Webb does not detect. “No one observatory or spacecraft can do it all,” Wong said, “so we are very excited about combining data from multiple observatories to tell us much more than we could learn from only a single source.”

This research is being conducted as part of a Webb Early Release Science (ERS) program. This program provides time to selected projects early in the observatory’s mission, allowing researchers to quickly learn how best to use Webb’s capabilities, while also yielding robust science.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Mapping the Early Universe with NASA's Webb Telescope

• June 24, 2020: Astronomers and engineers have designed telescopes, in part, to be "time travelers." The farther away an object is, the longer its light takes to reach Earth. Peering back in time is one reason why NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope specializes in collecting infrared light: These longer wavelengths, which were initially emitted by stars and galaxies as ultraviolet light more than 13 billion years ago, have stretched, or redshifted, into infrared light as they traveled toward us through the expanding universe. 178) 179)

Although many other observatories, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, have previously created "deep fields" by staring at small areas of the sky for significant chunks of time, the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey, led by Steven L. Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin, will be one of the first for Webb. He and his research team will spend just over 60 hours pointing the telescope at a slice of the sky known as the Extended Groth Strip, which was observed as part of Hubble's Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey or CANDELS.

"With Webb, we want to do the first reconnaissance for galaxies even closer to the big bang," Finkelstein said. "It is absolutely not possible to do this research with any other telescope. Webb is able to do remarkable things at wavelengths that have been difficult to observe in the past, on the ground or in space."

Mark Dickinson of the National Science Foundation's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory in Arizona, and one of the CEERS Survey co-investigators, gives a nod to Hubble while also looking forward to Webb's observations. "Surveys like the Hubble Deep Field have allowed us to map the history of cosmic star formation in galaxies within a half a billion years of the big bang all the way to the present in surprising detail," he said. "With CEERS, Webb will look even farther to add new data to those surveys."


Figure 120: The CEERS Survey researchers will use the James Webb Space Telescope to observe the Extended Groth Strip in infrared light. Their observations employ three of the telescope’s instruments and will provide both images and spectra of the objects in the field — which includes at least 50,000 galaxies — helping to expand what we know about galaxies in the very early universe [image credits: NASA, ESA, and M. Davis (University of California, Berkeley)]

Delivering the Unseen

What was the early universe like? There are certainly many data points, but not enough to create an exhaustive census of its conditions. Plus, researchers' knowledge and assumptions are updated frequently — each time a new deep exposure is released. "Every time we look farther, we find galaxies earlier and earlier than we thought possible," said CEERS Survey co-investigator Jeyhan Kartaltepe of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. "The conditions in the very early universe had to be right for galaxies to form — and they formed and became massive very quickly."

"The universe was more compact at this time, which means stars and galaxies could have formed at a greater efficiency," Finkelstein added. "Some models predict we'll find 50 galaxies at earlier eras more distant than Hubble can reach, but others predict we will only find a few. In both cases, the data will help us constrain galaxy formation in the early universe."

The CEERS Survey team hopes to identify an abundance of distant objects, including the most distant galaxies in the universe, early galaxy mergers and interactions, the first massive or supermassive black holes, and even earlier quasars than previously identified. These potential "firsts" are only the beginning of the value of this research: The team, which is made up of over 100 researchers from around the world, will go on to classify many objects in the field. "These data will help demonstrate what the structure of the universe was like at various periods," Finkelstein explained.

Hitting "Rewind"

Perhaps the most exciting element of this research is how the team will use the data to uncover new findings about an important period of the universe's history called the "Era of Reionization." The big bang set off a series of events, leading to the cosmic microwave background, the dark ages, the first stars and galaxies — and then to the Era of Reionization. During this period, the gas in the universe transformed from mostly neutral, meaning it was opaque to ultraviolet light, and became completely ionized, which allowed it to be transparent. Ionization means the atoms were stripped of their electrons — eventually leading to the "clear" conditions detected in much of the universe today.

Many questions remain about this unique time in our universe. For example, what was responsible for converting the gas from neutral to ionized? And how long did it take before the universe became significantly less opaque and much more transparent?


Figure 121: Our view of the universe wasn’t always so clear. More than 13 billion years ago, neutral gas made the universe opaque to some types of light. Over hundreds of millions of years, the universe became transparent as its gas particles became charged or ionized. What caused the gas to change? The James Webb Space Telescope will peer deep into space to gather more information about objects in this period, known as the Era of Reionization, to help us understand this major transition in the history of the universe (Ref. 179).

"We think this happened when ultraviolet light escaped young, forming galaxies," Dickinson explained. "There may be other factors. For example, early accreting black holes may also have emitted ultraviolet light that eventually helped transform the gas."

Where the galaxies appear on the sky offers another clue. "We'll examine reionization-era galaxies to see if they are clustered together in the same regions or if they are more isolated," said Kartaltepe. "We have a lot of ideas about what causes galaxies to grow and become more massive, but we need more comprehensive information about these galaxies to fully understand how they initially grew and evolved."

The presence of galactic mergers or interactions — or lack thereof — will also help the team trace the conditions of the environment during the Era of Reionization. "The CEERS Survey will give us hints about how this period proceeded," Dickinson adds. "We will certainly learn about the galaxies we think are responsible, and also hope to learn about the ionizing radiation that escaped them."

The team has designed the CEERS Survey to provide as much complementary data as possible for many targets in this field of view. They will employ three of Webb's instruments, in several modes, to obtain images of the Extended Groth Strip, in addition to spectra. Spectra are invaluable data since they help researchers identify the colors, temperatures, motions, and masses of each target, and provide a much more in-depth look at the chemical makeup of distant objects.

"That's the difference with Webb's NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph)," Dickinson emphasized. "We'll open the spectrograph's microshutter slits to individually observe hundreds of galaxies to obtain their spectra for the first time."

Beginning to Build a Census

In the months following the initial data release, the CEERS Survey researchers will create and post new tools and catalogs any researcher can use to analyze the data, including masses of galaxies, galaxy shapes, and photometric redshifts. "With the same set of observations, hundreds of researchers can conduct hundreds of science experiments," Kartaltepe said. "We're also going to find things we didn't even think to ask, which is one more reason why the CEERS Survey research will be so rewarding."

"Our hope is that the CEERS Survey will influence future distant galaxy surveys with Webb," Finkelstein added. "It will also demonstrate to the community that observing with a variety of instruments and modes are very valid ways to increase Webb's scientific yield."

This research is being conducted as part of a Webb Early Release Science (ERS) program. This program provides time to selected projects early in the telescope's mission, allowing researchers to quickly learn how best to use Webb's capabilities, while also yielding robust science.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world's premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

NASA's Webb Telescope Will Study an Iconic Supernova

• February 28, 2019: Within a galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, a star exploded 160,000 years ago. In 1987, light from that exploding star reached Earth. Over the past 32 years, astronomers have studied Supernova 1987A to learn about the physics of supernovas and their gaseous remnants. Those observations have revealed a surprising amount of dust, up to an entire sun’s worth. NASA’s infrared James Webb Space Telescope will study the dust within SN 1987A to learn about its composition, temperature and density. 180)

In February 1987, light from an exploding star arrived at Earth after traveling across 160,000 light-years of space. It was the closest supernova humanity had seen in centuries. Thirty-two years later, the light of the supernova itself has faded, but astronomers continue to study its remains for clues about how stars live and die. Scientists will use NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to observe Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), as it is known, in order to gain new insights into the physics of the explosion and its aftermath.

When you look at a photo of SN 1987A, two features stand out: a clumpy outer ring that looks like a pearl necklace, and an inner blob. The outer ring is material that the star shed thousands of years ago. When the supernova's blast wave hit this ring, it caused the previously invisible material to heat up and glow. The inner blob is material ejected when the star exploded.

That ejected material revealed a surprise when astronomers observed it with the European Space Agency’s infrared Herschel Space Observatory. They found that it contained an entire sun's worth of cold dust. More recently, NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) mission studied the ring and detected 10 times more dust than expected, indicating a growing amount of dust there, too.

Theories suggest that any dust within the ring that predated the explosion should have been destroyed by the blast wave, and the ejecta itself should be too hot for new dust to form. As a result, there should be little dust within SN 1987A. Yet observations tell a different story.

"Something has produced dust there. We need Webb to answer questions like, how was the dust produced, and what is it made of?" said lead researcher Margaret Meixner of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland.


Figure 122: Multiwavelength view of Supernova 1987A. Astronomers combined observations from three different observatories ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array), red; Hubble, green; Chandra X-ray Observatory, blue) to produce this colorful, multiwavelength image of the intricate remains of Supernova 1987A [image credit: NASA, ESA, A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Hubble credit: NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner; Chandra credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State/K. Frank et al.; ALMA credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) and R. Indebetouw (NRAO/AUI/NSF)]

What is dust, and why is it important?

Cosmic dust is different from the dust bunnies that you find under your furniture. It's smaller, mainly consisting of µm-sized particles like those in smoke. And rather than being made of bits of hair or clothing fibers, cosmic dust is composed of a variety of chemical elements like carbon, silicon and iron all stuck together. As a result, measuring the composition of a particular patch of cosmic dust is challenging because the signatures of the elements blend together.

"We have no clue what the dust in Supernova 1987A is made of – whether it's rocky and silicate-rich, or sooty and carbon-rich. Webb will let us learn not only the composition of the dust, but its temperature and density," explained Olivia Jones of the United Kingdom Astronomy Technology Center, a co-investigator on the project.

As dust from dying stars spreads through space, it carries essential elements to help seed the next generation of star and planet formation. "Dust is what the planets are made out of, what we're made out of. Without dust, you have no planets," said Jones.

Dust also is important for the evolution of galaxies. Observations have shown that distant, young galaxies had lots of dust. Those galaxies weren't old enough for sun-like stars to create so much dust, since sun-like stars last for billions of years. Only more massive, short-lived stars could have died soon enough and in large enough numbers to create the vast quantities of dust astronomers see in the early universe.

The birth of a supernova remnant

The team plans to examine SN 1987A with two of Webb's instruments: the Mid-Infrared Imager (MIRI) and the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec). With imaging, Webb will reveal features of SN 1987A far beyond any previous infrared observations due to its exquisite resolution. Astronomers expect to be able to map the temperature of the dust within both the supernova ejecta and the surrounding ring. They can also study the interaction of the blast wave with the ring in great detail.

Webb's true power will come from its spectroscopic measurements. By spreading light out into a rainbow spectrum of colors, scientists can determine not only chemical compositions but also temperatures, densities, and speeds. They can examine the physics of the blast wave, and determine how it is affecting the surrounding environment. They can also watch the evolution of the ejected material and ring over time.

"We're witnessing the birth of a supernova remnant," said Patrice Bouchet of DRF/Irfu/Astrophysics Department, CEA-Saclay in France, a co-principal investigator for the MIRI European Consortium. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event."

"Supernova 1987A is an object that continually surprises people," said Meixner. "This is one you'll want to keep your eyes open for!"

The observations described here will be taken as part of Webb's Guaranteed Time Observation (GTO) program. The GTO program provides dedicated time to the scientists who have worked with NASA to craft the science and instrument capabilities of Webb throughout its development.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world's premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.

How to Weigh a Black Hole Using JWST

October 17, 2018: At first glance, the galaxy NGC 4151 looks like an average spiral. Examine its center more closely, though, and you can spot a bright smudge that stands out from the softer glow around it. That point of light marks the location of a supermassive black hole weighing about 40 million times as much as our Sun. 181)

Astronomers will use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to measure that black hole’s mass. The result might seem like a piece of trivia, but its mass determines how a black hole feeds and affects the surrounding galaxy. And since most galaxies contain a supermassive black hole, learning about this nearby galaxy will improve our understanding of many galaxies across the cosmos.

“Some central questions in astrophysics are: How does a galaxy’s central black hole grow with time; how does the galaxy itself grow with time; and how do they affect each other? This project is a step toward answering those questions,” explained Misty Bentz of Georgia State University, Atlanta, the principal investigator of the project.


Figure 123: The spiral galaxy NGC 4151 has a bright, active core powered by a supermassive black hole. Webb will weigh the black hole by measuring the motions of stars at the galaxy’s center [image credits: NASA, ESA, and J. DePasquale (STScI)]

Probing a galaxy’s core: There are several methods of weighing supermassive black holes. One technique relies on measuring the motions of stars in the galaxy’s core. The heavier the black hole, the faster nearby stars will move under its gravitational influence.

NGC 4151 represents a challenging target, because it contains a particularly active black hole that is feeding voraciously. As a result, the material swirling around the black hole, known as an accretion disk, shines brightly. The light from the accretion disk threatens to overwhelm the fainter light from stars in the region.

“With Webb’s beautifully shaped mirrors and sharp ‘vision,’ we should be able to probe closer to the galaxy’s center even though there’s a really bright accretion disk there,” said Bentz.

The team expects to be able to investigate the central 1,000 light-years of NGC 4151, and be able to resolve stellar motions on a scale of about 15 light-years.

A thousand spectra at once: To achieve this feat, the team will use Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) integral field unit, or IFU. It will be the first IFU flown in space, and it has a unique capability.

Webb’s IFU takes the light from every location in an image and splits it into a rainbow spectrum. To do this it employs almost 100 mirrors, each of them precision crafted to a specific shape, all squeezed into an instrument the size of a shoebox. Those mirrors effectively slice a small square of the sky into strips, then spread the light from those strips out both spatially and in wavelength.

In this way a single image yields 1,000 spectra. Each spectrum tells astronomers not only about the elements that make up the stars and gas at that exact point of the sky, but also about their relative motions.

Despite Webb’s exquisite resolution, the team won’t be able to measure the motions of individual stars. Instead, they will get information about groups of stars very close to the center of the galaxy. They will then apply computer models to determine the gravitational field affecting the stars, which depends on the size of the black hole.

“Our computer code generates a bunch of mock stars – tens of thousands of stars, mimicking the motions of real stars in the galaxy. We put in a variety of different black holes and see what matches the observations the best,” said Monica Valluri of the University of Michigan, a co-investigator on the project.

The result of this technique will be compared with a second one that focuses on the gas at the galaxy’s center, rather than the stars.

“We should get the same answer, no matter what technique we use, if we’re looking at the same black hole,” said Bentz. “NGC 4151 is one of the best targets for making that comparison.”

These observations will be taken as part of the Director’s Discretionary-Early Release Science program. The DD-ERS program provides time to selected projects enabling the astronomical community to quickly learn how best to use Webb’s capabilities, while also yielding robust science.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world's premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

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130) Thaddeus Cesari, Rob Garner, ”NASA’s Webb Is Sound After Completing Critical Milestones,” NASA, 8 February, 2019, URL:

131) Thaddeus Cesari, ”Both Halves of NASA’s Webb Telescope Successfully Communicate,” NASA, 26 September 2018, URL:

132) Ann Jenkins, ”Success in Critical Communications Tests for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope,” NASA, 5 September 2018, URL:

133) ”Technicians Ensure James Webb Space Telescope’s Sunshield Survives Stresses Experienced During Liftoff,” NASA, 18 July 2018, URL:

134) Eric Villard, Rob Gutro, ”Engineers Solve Excessive Heat Removal from NASA’s Webb Telescope,” NASA, 5 June 2018, URL:

135) ”#14: Tests, moving to a new home, and more tests,” ESA, 4 June 2018, URL:

136) ”Combined Optics, Science Instruments of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Arrive in California,” NASA, 5 Feb. 2018, Release 18-007, URL:

137) ”Selections Made for the JWST Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science Program,” STScI, 13 Nov. 2017, URL:

138) ”Webb's first space targets chosen,” ESA Science and Technology, 13 Nov. 2017, URL:

139) ”Self-Portrait of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Marks Critical Test,” NASA, 19 Oct. 2017, URL:

140) Eric Villard, ”NASA’s Webb Telescope Will Study Our Solar System’s “Ocean Worlds”,” NASA, Aug. 24, 2017, URL:

141) Rob Gutro, Lynn Jenner, ”NASA's Webb Telescope Summertime Deep-Freeze Continues,” NASA, Aug. 9, 2017, URL:

142) Laura Betz, ”NASA’s Webb Telescope Completes Goddard Testing, Heading to Texas for More,” NASA, May 1, 2017, URL:

143) ”#12: Testing times for JWST,” ESA, 16, June 2017, URL:

144) Rob Gutro, ”NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Completes Acoustic and Vibration Tests,” NASA, March 28, 2017, URL:

145) Laura Betz, Lynn Jenner, ”NASA Restarts Rigorous Vibration Testing on the James Webb Space Telescope,” NASA, Jan. 25, 2017, URL:

146) ”NASA's Webb... Seeking Good Vibrations,” Satnews Daily, Jan. 3, 2017, URL:

147) Laura Betz, ”NASA completes Webb Telescope Center of Curvature pre-test,” NASA, Nov. 2, 2016, URL:

148) Connie Reese, Rob Gutro, ”Final Sunshield Layer Completed for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope,” NASA, Oct. 31, 2016: URL:

149) Laura Betz, ”Science Instruments of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Installed,” NASA, May 24, 2016, URL:

150) Laura Betz, ”James Webb Space Telescope's Golden Mirror Unveiled,” NASA, April 27, 2016, URL:

151) Laura Betz, ”NASA Marks Major Milestones for the James Webb Space Telescope,” NASA, March 21, 2016, URL:

152) Rob Gutro, ”NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Secondary Mirror Installed,” NASA, March 7, 2016, URL:

153) Rob Gutro, ”NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Coming Together Over Next Two Years,” NASA, Feb. 24, 2016, URL:

154) Felicia Chou, Rob Gutro, ”NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Primary Mirror Fully Assembled,” NASA, Press Release, 16-013, Feb. 4, 2016, URL:

155) Laura Betz, ”James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Halfway Complete,” NASA/GSFC, Dec. 28, 2015, URL:

156) Dwayne Brown, Lynn Chandler, ”NASA’s Webb Space Telescope Receives First Mirror Installation,” NASA Release 15-226, Nov. 25, 2015, URL:

157) Laura Betz, ”James Webb Space Telescope 'Wings' Successfully Deployed,” NASA, Nov. 16, 2015, URL:

158) ”Northrop Grumman Team Successfully Completes Manufacturing of Optical Class Spacecraft Structure for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope,” Northrop Grumman, Oct. 8, 2015, URL:

159) Rob Gutro, ”NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Structure Stands Tall,” NASA, Sept. 16, 2015. URL:

160) Rob Gutro, “NASA's Webb Sunshield Gives an 'Open Wide' for Inspection,” NASA, Aug. 12, 2015, URL:

161) Chuck Bowers, “Pathfinder Tests Completed at Johnson Space Center,” NASA,Webb Update, Issue No 18, Summer 2015, URL:

162) Laura Betz, “Building Hubble's Successor: Crucial Pathfinder Test Set Up Inside Chamber A,” NASA, April 20, 2015, URL:

163) Hashima Hasan, “NAC (NASA Advisory Council) Astrophysics Subcommittee Meeting Minutes,” NASA HQ, Washington DC, March 17-18, 2015, URL:

164) John Durning, “James Webb Space Telescope Mission Status,” Astrophysics Subcommittee Meeting, NASA HQ, Washington DC, March 17-18, 2015, URL:

165) “Simulating space for JWST’s four infrared instruments,” ESA, March 2, 2015, URL:

166) Laura Betz, “NASA Webb's Heart Survives Deep Freeze Test,” NASA, Oct. 21, 2014, URL:

167) Rob Gutro, “NASA's Webb Sunshield Stacks Up to Test!,” NASA, July 25, 2014, URL:

168) “Shelter from the Sun,” ESA, Aug. 25, 214, URL:

169) Randy Kimble, “Cryo-Verification Test of the Complete ISIM Begins!,” NASA, JWST Update, Issue No 17, Summer 2014, URL:

170) Ken Kremer, “James Webb Space Telescope’s Pathfinder Mirror Backplane Arrives at NASA Goddard for Critical Assembly Testing,” Universe Today, August 13, 2014, URL:

171) J. D. Harrington, Christina Thompson, Hillary Searle, “Testing Completed on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Backplane,” NASA, Release 14-178, July 8, 2014, URL:

172) J. D. Harrington, Lynn Chandler, “James Webb Space Telescope Passes a Mission Milestone,” NASA News Release 14-026, Jan. 24, 2014, URL:

173) “NGC Completes Critical Design Review For James Webb Space Telescope,” Space Daily, Jan. 30, 2014, URL:

174) “JWST Recent Accomplishment,” NASA, March 12, 2014, URL:

175) Rob Gutro, “JWST Spinoff Technologies Already Seen in Some Industries,” NASA, April 18, 2012, URL:

176) “Webb Spinoffs,” NASA, URL:

177) ”NASA's Webb Telescope Will Study Jupiter, its Rings, and Two Intriguing Moons,” NASA News Release 2020-38, 31 July 2020, URL:

178) Claire Blome (STScI), ”Mapping the Early Universe with NASA's Webb Telescope,” NASA Feature, 24 June 2020, URL:

179) ”Cosmic Reionization,” URL:

180) Christine Pulliam,”Webb Will Probe the Dusty Remains of Supernova 1987A,” STSI News, 28 February 2019, Release ID: 2019-13, URL:

181) Christine Pulliam, ”How to Weigh a Black Hole Using NASA’s Webb Space Telescope,” NASA, 17 October 2018, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

Concept    Launch    Observatory    Sensor Complement    Spacecraft Bus and Sunshield
Development Status    Spinoff Technologies    Supernova Study    How to Weigh a Black Hole    References    Back to Top