The James Webb Space Telescope launches on its historic journey

Loft-off of the Ariane 5 rocket with the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: Arianespace TV.

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 Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Credit: Arianespace.
The Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Credit: Arianespace.

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.

A final look of the James Webb Space Telescope as it heads into deep space. Credit: Arianespace TV.
A final look of the James Webb Space Telescope as it heads into deep space. Credit: Arianespace TV.

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!

The James Webb Space Telescope will make its way over the course of 29 days to its new home at the L2 (Lagrange 2) point. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA.
The James Webb Space Telescope will make its way over the course of 29 days to its new home at the L2 (Lagrange 2) point. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA.

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.

A list of some of the major deployments during the 29 days the JWST will need to complete before reaching L2. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA).
A list of some of the major deployments during the 29 days the JWST will need to complete before reaching L2. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA).

Watch a replay of the James Webb Space Telescope launch

A message from the Canadian Space Agency on the successful launch

Follow our ongoing coverage here.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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