the James Webb Space Telescope Really on his way.
The massive observatory was launched today (December 25) from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 7:20 AM EST (1220 GMT). After just 12.5 hours, the spacecraft began a vital maneuver on its month-long journey to its future forward location as the observatory carried out a 65-minute burn that ended at 8:55 p.m. EDT (0155 GMT), according to A Statement from NASA.
The space telescope is scheduled to orbit a point in space known as Earth’s Sun Lagrangian Point 2 or L2, which lies 1 million miles (1.5 million km) from Earth on the side opposite the sun. The spacecraft covered the first 10% of that flight within 12 hours of launch. Then, when the telescope was 100,000 miles (160,000 km) away from the earth, the observatory made a decisive burn to ensure that it reached its destination safely.
According to NASADubbed Mid-Course Correction Burn 1a or MCC1a, this burn was the most important of the three burns the spacecraft would incur during its flight to L2, and the only one whose timing should be particularly carefully.
A spacecraft often needs to perform a trajectory maneuver in the hours after launch to account for subtle differences in where its rocket deposits the machinery, however, this Webb burnout included a critical limitation, according to NASA: The spacecraft couldn’t slow down. Because doing so requires wrapping, exposing their ultra-heat-sensitive organs to the sun.
Instead, the observatory can only increase its speed, so the observatory’s launch sequence is designed to err on the side of an Ariane 5 missile that delivers a little less power than is needed, not a little more. The burning of MCC1a was an opportunity for the observatory to fine-tune its path toward L2.
Also during the first phase of the observatory’s travel, President Joe Biden acknowledged the teams behind the telescope for their work on the project.
Biden wrote in a newspaper tweet Posted this evening. “Webb is a shining example of the power of what we can achieve when we dream big. We’ve always known this project would be a risky endeavor, but with big risks come big rewards.”
With the burning of MCC1a complete, the observatory has successfully performed the only two procedures that require specific timing. From now on, the deployment steps will be carried out in a flexible manner rather than at certain times.
However, the next milestone on JWST’s month-long journey will occur about a day after launch, according to NASA timeline, when the spacecraft deploys the coaxial antenna array, which contains a main communications antenna, to point back toward Earth.