NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Has Been Fully Assembled

  • NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Has Been Fully Assembled

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Has Been Fully Assembled

The agency's new big space observatory has been plagued with delays and cost overruns since it was announced in 2009, doubling its initial price tag to now reach some $9.7 billion (and counting) with an additional seven-year launch delay.

Following the announcement that JWST had been full assembled, Bill Ochs, JWST project manager for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, said: "The assembly of the telescope and its scientific instruments, sunshield and the spacecraft into one observatory represents an incredible achievement by the entire Webb team".

The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope, with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures that fold up around the telescope for launch, partially deployed to an open configuration to enable telescope installation.

Ultimately, NASA says, this was a purely mechanical connection. Engineers with the space agency still have to connect the wires and links within the telescope electronically for it to be functional. While Hubble captures optical and ultraviolet wavelengths, James Webb will capture the universe in infrared.

JWST will also be situated much farther out in space than Hubble.

Hubble has a 2.4 meter-wide mirror is limited in the amount of light that it can capture. The telescope's shiny mirrors really stand out.

"The more we learn more about our universe, the more we realize that Webb is critical to answering questions we didn't even know how to ask when the spacecraft was first designed", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in a statement.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is a cautionary tale of what happens when you place too much trust in (and shell out too much money to) a government contractor. Better that technical problems are uncovered here on Earth than 1.5 million km (930 mi) away, the altitude at which the telescope will eventually orbit, so the exhaustive testing continues with the team to deploy the telescope' complex five-layer heat shield and make sure it takes the correct shape.

Nevertheless, the telescope itself is going to be pretty awesome, and the things it could teach us about space and our place in it are extremely exciting.