At 7:20 a.m. EST (12:20 UTC) the powerful Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from its tropical launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana with the James Webb Space Telescope safely nestled within its fairing. It takes with it the hopes of thousands of people from 14 countries who contributed to this mission, a mission designed to expand our knowledge of the universe.
The weather had been an issue all week heading into the launch, but tropical rains and strong upper winds didn’t materialize and the launch countdown proceeded as planned.
The countdown went perfectly, the launch smooth, and once in space, the upper stage of the rocket with the telescope atop of it flew on a nominal trajectory.
At the T-plus 31 minute mark the telescope began the critical deployment of its solar arrays after separating from the Ariane 5 upper stage. Those arrays provide the necessary power for the telescope. Now the telescope is heading into deep space to begin its much anticipated science mission.
It will be a 29 day journey to Earth’s Lagrange 2 (L2) point beyond the Moon, 1.5 million km away.
During its voyage to L2 it will deploy its communications antenna, sunshield, secondary and then primary mirrors. If you remember the seven minutes of terror of the entry, descent and landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars, imagine 29 days chock-full of events that must be completed perfectly!
Once the JWST reaches L2 it will begin a six-month long commissioning phase during which it will fully deploy, cool down to its operating temperatures, align its mirrors, and calibrate its instruments.
Watch a replay of the James Webb Space Telescope launch
A message from the Canadian Space Agency on the successful launch
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