$10 Billion James Webb Space Telescope Fueled for Launch

The James Webb Space Telescope was fueled inside the payload preparation facility at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana ahead of its launch on Ariane 5. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

The James Webb Space Telescope was fueled inside the payload preparation facility at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana ahead of its launch on Ariane 5.

Webb’s thrusters will use this propellant to make critical course-corrections after separation from Ariane 5, to maintain its prescribed orbit about one and a half million kilometers from Earth, and to repoint the observatory and manage its momentum during operations.

Fueling any satellite is a particularly delicate operation requiring setup of the equipment and connections, fueling, and then pressurization.

Webb’s propellant tanks were filled separately with 79.5 l of dinitrogen tetroxide oxidizer and 159 l hydrazine. Oxidizer improves the burn efficiency of the hydrazine fuel.

These propellants are extremely toxic so only a few specialists wearing Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensemble, or ‘scape’ suits, remained in the dedicated fueling hall for fueling which took 10 days and ended on 3 December.

The next steps will start soon for ‘combined operations’. This is when specialists working separately to prepare Webb and Ariane 5 will come together as one team. They will place Webb atop its Ariane 5 launch vehicle and encapsulate it inside Ariane 5’s fairing.

Then, no longer visible, Webb, joined with its Ariane 5 launch vehicle will be transferred to the Final Assembly building for the final preparations before launch.

Webb will be the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space. As part of an international collaboration agreement, ESA is providing the telescope’s launch service using the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Working with partners, ESA was responsible for the development and qualification of Ariane 5 adaptations for the Webb mission and for the procurement of the launch service by Arianespace.

Webb and Ariane 5: a fit made perfect. Ariane 5 has been customized to accommodate all the specific requirements of the Webb mission. New hardware ensures that venting ports around the base of the fairing remain fully open. This will minimize the shock of depressurization when the fairing jettisons away from the launch vehicle. Some elements of Webb are sensitive to radiation from the Sun and heating by the atmosphere. To protect it after the fairing is jettisoned, Ariane 5 will perform a specially developed rolling maneuver to avoid any fixed position of the telescope relative to the Sun. Additionally, an extra battery is installed on Ariane 5 to allow a boost to the upper stage after release of the telescope, distancing it from Webb. Credit: ESA

Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

AstronomyAstrophysicsEuropean Space AgencyJames Webb Space TelescopeNASA
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  • Eric M. Jones

    In the attempt to prevent a Hubble-type disaster, it has become far to complicated. I hope I am wrong, but I predict a failure to unfold properly when on station. The solution to this is to build a small robotic spacecraft to do some minor adjustments and send it afterwards.

    Yeh, I know I am being a pain. Good luck.

  • Tom E Coward

    Awesome stuff.

  • KubeOne

    This is very exciting! Looking forward to seeing a Webb Deep Field image.

    • Al Biruni

      Yes we want to see some galaxies and we’d love to see (at least some of) them in their natural colour with extra details that James Webb will be able to provide using infrared.

  • John Parsons

    @Eric M. Jones I know, right? Imagine all this work and money and then the thing gets stranded at the Lagrange point, unable to set itself up and unable to be reached by man or machine.

    Like yourself, I dearly hope I’m wrong.

  • Cynthia Binder

    Looking forward to science,🔭😇🍕🥗🌯hungry for an improve view, love ☕hubble,launch 1st, space,open space🌠

  • Cynthia Binder

    😷 smallest or largest thoughts..🔭 ..🧐 men its about the scope in space not your man thoughts 🥳merry Christmas 🎅🎄🎁

  • Ottho Heldring

    Keeping my fingers crossed. If successful this could be huge for cosmology.

  • Me

    BOOM!

  • Patrick D.

    Nice to be kept up-to-date on the James Webb telescope and the preparations being done ahead of its launch…BUT…one “little” detail left out in regard to this fine project is the target date for the launch. We know how it’s made, its width, its height,on what type of rocket it is to be launched, and from where….But… When does it go up?

  • I hate science

    Imagine spending trillions of dollar just to send it to space this money could be utilized elsewhere than this piece of metal which no human will use by the way just bad

  • Michael Ward

    You know people can’t be positive this is a monumental achievement for all involved/humanity will never get anyware listening to such negative bullsh*t it will work perfectly all the negative people will eat there word’s give it hell nasa

  • Walter Baker

    Why can’t fueled thrusters be used to return JWST to Earth’s orbit for repairs?

  • Heather-Celeste

    Yea please don’t mess up this launch because it’s the most important thing I have to live for now thank you.

  • reyhan

    thanks alot of information