The telescope, known as the “Webb”, lifted off from Arianespace spaceport in French Guiana on December 25, 2021 at 12:20 pm – the culmination of decades of scientific collaboration.
The mission is led by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency, with the UK playing a major role in leading the European consortium, which designed, built and tested one of the four main scientific instruments, in close collaboration with partners in the United States.
Science Minister George Freeman said:
Today is a monumental milestone for international and British space science: the Webb space telescope will allow us to go further and deeper to explore and discover our planetary universe.
The project draws heavily on the world-class expertise of top UK scientists and engineers who were able to provide vital parts of this complex and powerful telescope.
Being at the heart of this international project showcases the innovative talent of world-renowned UK scientists and engineers and underlines our position as a global scientific powerhouse.
Minister Freeman – Launch of JWST
See the universe
The telescope is expected to redefine our understanding of the cosmos and unveil some of the secrets of the distant Universe.
Webb will scan the dusty clouds in space to allow scientists to determine how the first galaxies formed and will see our own solar system in a whole new way and in detail never seen before.
Scientists and engineers in the UK have been instrumental in the development and launch of the Medium Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which will be able to see the faint light of even distant stars, effectively looking farther away. in time than ever before, and to peek through the dust and gas to spot emerging stars.
The development of MIRI was funded by the UK Space Agency and the Council for Science and Technology Facilities, part of UK Research and Innovation, and ESA.
Caroline Harper, head of space science at the UK Space Agency, said:
Webb is about to rewrite the astronomy textbooks, showing us things about the universe that we’ve never been able to see before. I am delighted to see the fascinating discoveries the spacecraft makes as it reveals the evolution of the universe.
The UK has played a pivotal role in this mission that is unique in a generation, developing the mid-infrared instrument, which will examine the physical and chemical properties of objects in the early universe in greater detail than ever before. It has been a fantastic example of academic-industry partnership, showcasing the skills and expertise of our scientists and engineers.
The UK in the James Webb Space Telescope
Webb in UK
MIRI will offer a host of capabilities, with a spectrograph for breaking down light into its constituent wavelengths, a coronograph for blocking starlight and looking at fainter objects next to stars, and a camera for taking photos.
MIRI was designed, built and tested by a European consortium of 10 member countries led by the United Kingdom, in partnership with the United States. The European contribution is led by Professor Gillian Wright MBE of the UK Astronomy Technology Center (UKATC) at STFC and includes STFC RAL Space, the University of Leicester and Airbus UK.
The UK’s primary role in the instrument is to take responsibility for the overall design, scientific performance, and mechanical, thermal and optical design, as well as the software for assembly, integration, testing and testing. ‘calibration.
The UK (UK Space Agency since 2011 and STFC) has invested almost £ 20million in the development phase of MIRI and continued to support essential testing, integration, calibration and characterization activities post-delivery carried out by the British MIRI team.
Professor Gillian Wright, European Principal Investigator for MIRI and Director of UKATC, said:
Seeing the launch of Webb, with MIRI on board, after more than two decades is a defining moment.
MIRI is a special instrument, for the breadth of its science, the team that built it, and being the coolest instrument on Webb. The MIRI team took on the challenges and brought exquisite engineering solutions to make it a reality.
The Webb mission as a whole is a stunning technological breakthrough in terms of scale and complexity, and that extends to instruments, including MIRI. With the launch, we are all eagerly awaiting the first MIRI data and the new vision of the universe that we will have.
What’s next for Webb
Although Webb has successfully launched his journey, his journey has only just begun.
The telescope’s giant mirror was to be launched in 18 folded segments inside the launcher and it had to be unfolded, and all segments perfectly aligned, into space. A huge, tennis court-sized sun visor is needed to keep the instruments cool enough to function and this must be deployed in space as well.
Webb will then embark on a month-long journey to his destination, a million kilometers from Earth. Within six months of the launch, the observatory will be commissioned – with the first results expected in summer 2022.