The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – or short “Webb” – is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. The satellite has been developed under the leadership of NASA in cooperation with the European and the Canadian Space agencies. It is scheduled to be launched from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket on 22 December 2021.
Protected by a Fairing Made in Switzerland
The top of the Ariane 5 rocket is made of RUAG International’s payload fairing – produced at the company’s site in Emmen, Switzerland. The 17-meter-high structure protects the JWST during liftoff and its journey through the atmosphere. The Webb’s sunshield – as big as a tennis court – was specially engineered to fold up and fit within the 5.4-meter diameter fairing. “Our fairing was custom-made for this precious payload”, says André Wall, CEO of RUAG International. New hardware ensures that venting ports around the base of the fairing remain fully open. This will minimize the shock of depressurization when the fairing is jettisoned away from the launch vehicle.
Furthermore, RUAG International contributed to the mission with key technology from its sites worldwide. "Like no other mission, Webb demonstrates what the international space community is capable of. We are proud to be part of this global collaborative effort that will help us understand ourselves, our solar system, and the history of our universe better than ever before," emphasizes André Wall, CEO of RUAG International. In addition to the payload fairing, the separation system and the payload adapter for the Ariane 5 launcher, RUAG International is supplying the antenna for data transmission to Earth, the ground equipment and three mechanisms for two of the telescope's four scientific instruments.
JWST: Studying the Beginning of Galaxies, Stars and Life
JWST will directly observe a part of space and time never seen before. Webb will gaze into the epoch when the very first stars and galaxies formed, over 13.5 billion years ago. Ultraviolet and visible light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched or “redshifted” by the universe’s continual expansion and arrives today as infrared light. Webb is designed to “see” this infrared light with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity. The Webb has four scientific missions: finding the earliest stars and galaxies, understanding how galaxies evolved, observing the formation of new stars and solar systems, and scanning Earth’s neighboring planets for their chemical properties and signs of life. The main instrument of the JWST is an infrared telescope with a main reflector 6.5 meters in diameter. Unlike its predecessor Hubble, which observes the universe from a height of a few hundred kilometers above the Earth, the JWST will orbit around a point 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth.