NASA’s $10 Billion James Webb Space Telescope Has Successfully Completed Testing

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

After successful completion of its final tests, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is being prepped for shipment to its launch site.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Completed Testing

Fully assembled and fully tested, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has completed its primary testing regimen and will soon begin shipment preparations. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Engineering teams have completed Webb’s long-spanning comprehensive testing regimen at Northrop Grumman’s facilities. Webb’s many tests and checkpoints were designed to ensure that the world’s most complex space science observatory will operate as designed once in space.

Now that observatory testing has concluded, shipment operations have begun. This includes all the necessary steps to prepare Webb for a safe journey through the Panama Canal to its launch location in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America. Since no more large-scale testing is required, Webb’s clean room technicians have shifted their focus from demonstrating it can survive the harsh conditions of launch and work in orbit, to making sure it will safely arrive at the launch pad. Webb’s contamination control technicians, transport engineers, and logistics task forces are all expertly prepared to handle the unique task of getting Webb to the launch site. Shipping preparations will be completed in September.

Webb Will Soon Be on its Way  

“NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major turning point on its path toward launch with the completion of final observatory integration and testing,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We have a tremendously dedicated workforce who brought us to the finish line, and we are very excited to see that Webb is ready for launch and will soon be on that science journey.”

While shipment operations are underway, teams located in Webb’s Mission Operations Center (MOC) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore will continue to check and recheck the complex communications network it will use in space. Recently this network fully demonstrated that it is capable of seamlessly sending commands to the spacecraft. Live launch rehearsals are underway within the MOC with the explicit purpose of preparing for launch day and beyond. There is much to be done before launch, but with integration and testing formally concluded, NASA’s next giant leap into the cosmic unknown will soon be underway.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Assembled and Tested

With integration and testing formally concluded for the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s next giant leap into the cosmic unknown will soon be underway. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Once Webb arrives in French Guiana, launch processing teams will configure the observatory for flight. This involves post-shipment checkouts to ensure the observatory hasn’t been damaged during transport, carefully loading the spacecraft’s propellant tanks with hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer it will need to power its rocket thrusters to maintain its orbit, and detaching ‘remove before flight’ red-tag items like protective covers that keep important components safe during assembly, testing, and transport. Then engineering teams will mate the observatory to its launch vehicle, an Ariane 5 rocket provided by ESA (European Space Agency), before it rolls out to the launch pad. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

The James Webb Space Telescope is an amazing feat of human ingenuity, made more impressive by the obstacles Webb personnel overcame to deliver this amazing space science observatory. Earthquakes, a devastating hurricane, snowstorms, blizzards, wildfires, and a global pandemic are only some of what the people behind Webb endured to ensure success. Webb’s story is one of perseverance – a mission with contributions from thousands of scientists, engineers, and other professionals from more than 14 countries and 29 states, in nine different time zones. 

“To me, launching Webb will be a significant life event – I’ll be elated of course when this is successful, but it will also be a time of deep personal introspection. Twenty years of my life will all come down to that moment,” said Mark Voyton, Webb observatory integration and test manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’ve come a long way and worked through so much together to prepare our observatory for flight. The telescope’s journey is only just beginning, but for those of us on the ground who built it, our time will soon come to an end, and we will have our opportunity to rest, knowing we put everything on the line to make sure our observatory works. The bonds we formed with each other along the way will last far into the future.”

Opening NASA’s New Eye on the Cosmos

After launch, Webb will undergo an action-packed six-month commissioning period. Moments after completing a 26-minute ride aboard the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, the spacecraft will separate from the rocket and its solar array will deploy automatically. After that, all subsequent deployments over the next few weeks will be initiated from ground control located at STScI.


Engineering teams have completed the James Webb Space Telescope’s long-spanning comprehensive testing regimen at Northrop Grumman’s facilities. Webb’s many tests and checkpoints were designed to ensure that the world’s most complex space science observatory will operate as designed once in space. Now that observatory testing has concluded, shipment operations have begun. This includes all the necessary steps to prepare Webb for a safe journey through the Panama Canal to its launch location in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Michael P. Menzel (AIMM): Producer, Michael P. Menzel (AIMM): Video Editor, Michael P. Menzel (AIMM): Videographer, Sophia Roberts (AIMM): Videographer

Webb will take one month to fly to its intended orbital location in space nearly one million miles away from Earth, slowly unfolding as it goes. Sunshield deployments will begin a few days after launch, and each step can be controlled expertly from the ground, giving Webb’s launch full control to circumnavigate any unforeseen issues with deployment. 

Once the sunshield starts to deploy, the telescope and instruments will enter shade and start to cool over time. Over the ensuing weeks, the mission team will closely monitor the observatory’s cooldown, managing it with heaters to control stresses on instruments and structures. In the meantime, the secondary mirror tripod will unfold, the primary mirror will unfold, Webb’s instruments will slowly power up, and thruster firings will insert the observatory into a prescribed orbit.

Once the observatory has cooled down and stabilized at its frigid operating temperature, several months of alignments to its optics and calibrations of its scientific instruments will occur. Scientific operations are expected to commence approximately six months after launch.

‘Flagship’ missions like Webb are generational projects. Webb was built on both the legacy and the lessons of missions before it, such as the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and it will in turn provide the foundation upon which future large astronomical space observatories may one day be developed. 

“After completing the final steps of the James Webb Space Telescope’s testing regimen, I can’t help but see the reflections of the thousands of individuals who have dedicated so much of their lives to Webb, every time I look at that beautiful gold mirror,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager for NASA Goddard.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. 

22 Comments on "NASA’s $10 Billion James Webb Space Telescope Has Successfully Completed Testing"

  1. Rowland Stevens | August 27, 2021 at 5:02 am | Reply

    I doubt seriously that there is 10 billion worth of knowledge that is really useful for any telescope of the heavens. Satellites of earth are certainly useful. But going elsewhere are so far away, who really cares. And one thing is for sure, in my view:

    There is absolutely no reason what so ever for any thought that there does not exist life elsewhere in the universe. There is nothing unique about the earth! That we are ignorant of it and many things about are universe, the answer is so what?
    And it is not that we have 10 billion laying around that doesn’t have other uses that one can not say So What? about. Its time for NASA to shrink down to something useful, not find meaningless things to do to justify spending billions on projects such as this about distance space. If private entities want to foolishly spend their money on them, so what?

    • The vast majority of our understanding of the elements came for the study of stars. That’s worth way more than $10 billion. Most of our modern technology came from the study of things that had no practical application. You’re like the high school kid that’s asking the question “when am I going to use this.” It’s always worth it for us to try to become less dumb.

    • Amateur astronomer | August 27, 2021 at 8:13 pm | Reply

      You need to understand exactly what your seeing when you look through a telescope. That’s not just an image of the Jupiter that comes through, that’s an old image of Jupiter that comes through. The deeper into space you gaze, the farther back in time you see. The problem has been background radiation, that is as far back as you can see right now. It is caused by the light “aging” so much it all shifts to the infrared spectrum.
      This telescope is an infrared telescope, and as such will give us our first glimpse past this wall, also known as the observable universe. This will either put to bed the theory of the big bang, or destroy it. Problem is, as with most science, answering one question usually only supplies a dozen more that need answered. I expect the same from this scope.
      It isn’t just going to see farther into space aka farther back in time then we have ever seen before, it has many other tricks up it’s sleeve, like the ability to search for actual Earth sized planets around stars. It will also be used to spot black holes, which you can’t see directly but luckily enough create heat on the space around them in the form of, you guessed it, infrared radiation.
      The list goes on and on, and to not seek out information, to be blunt, is to go against your human nature. You claim the Earth isn’t special, yet most solar systems being discovered say otherwise. Name one other solar system we have found with 8 planets please… You can’t, most we have found to date is 6. There is a huge correlation between the number of planets and the ability to have an exact copy of Earth. Not only that, but to have a moon like we do… Now that’s some odds.
      You also have to understand finding interstellar life right now isn’t finding interstellar life right now, it’s once again finding life that used to exist via how every many light years (probably parsecs to be honest) the object we find it on is.
      By all means though, you probably don’t even realize you can’t see the vast majority of stars in the milky way because they are red dwarfs, and as such are mostly only visible in, you guessed it, infrared light. Who on Earth could put a use behind something that can see the vast majority of stars that we can’t detect right now, what would that even accomplish. Yes, that last sentence was sarcasm.

  2. @rowland
    This is a very narrow point of view. The discoveries of these space telescopes go far beyond the data that they retrieve.

    Astrophysics has brought you: wifi, medical imaging, digital cameras, data analaysis software and a myriad of other spin off tools and devices.

    10 Billion is a bargain in the long term, but maybe, you would rather see that spent on a border wall.

  3. Great News. The James Webb Telescope is ready to launch. It could be in space very soon. Well, maybe in September although it might get pushed back a few more weeks, but I’m sure it will be some time this year or perhaps next. I suppose it will be safer to figure on sometime in the next six years or so. Stay tuned.

  4. Some truth time. Your Astrophysicist thought up and then built Nuclear fire. Then allowed mad men to use on other humans. Stick your altruistic bullshit in your ass. James Webb is a cash cow for useless engineers. Now tell me how any of your miracle advancements help the 6 billion poor of the world. All your advancements are for rich nations. Your egos are making me nauseous. You should not write your thoughts here. No one wants to here your bullsh*t.

  5. Steve Collins | August 27, 2021 at 8:00 am | Reply

    The times have certainly been taken over by the new Neanderthals. Who in the world in their right mind would question the value of Knowledge!? The need for mankind to be knowledgeable about their immediate and distant environments is essential to survival and advancement as a species. Drop the hillbilly budget complaint and get an education!

  6. we’re leaving 90 billion dollars worth of military equipment in Afghanistan either to be blown up or salvaged by the Taliban which was paid for by taxpayers and your going to complain about ten billion that was actually spent responsibly. not to mention it also paid for the salaries of the hundreds of people involved in the project. unbelievable.

  7. The JW telescope and the pictures and data it will collect is priceless. Imagine a world without Hubble. I can’t and I won’t deny future generations the benefits of this technology and all future discoveries. I’ve been waiting so long to see the first images from JW. Good luck and Gods speed!

  8. Michael kiselak | August 27, 2021 at 1:14 pm | Reply

    Spending 10 billion is a pittance compared to the money stolen from ppp, unemployment and other programs the federal government setup to combat COVID-19. Until you understand the speed of light and the distances between stars and galaxies you won’t appreciate what this telescope is going to teach and show us. Let’s just hope it get up there and performs like it was designed to do and then we’ll compare the cost to the data!

  9. Michael kiselak | August 27, 2021 at 1:15 pm | Reply

    Spending 10 billion is a pittance compared to the money stolen from ppp, unemployment and other programs the federal government setup to combat COVID-19. Until you understand the speed of light and the distances between stars and galaxies you won’t appreciate what this telescope is going to teach and show us. Let’s just hope it get up there and performs like it was designed to do and then we’ll compare the cost to the data!

  10. I cant wait…..

    For it to go splat into the sun

    • Amateur astronomer | August 27, 2021 at 8:24 pm | Reply

      I am not sure why I am even replying to this, but you realize it isn’t going to be anywhere near the sun right? It is actually going to orbit Earth, like the Hubble, but much farther away from Earth.
      If you want to be more scientific about what might lead to it’s demise, take Hubble for example. Hubble’s primary mirror is protected by a metal case around it, James Webb will have an open primary mirror. A few micrometeorites would be all it would take to lower it’s abilities drastically, if not take it offline permanently. Of course, this would require actual knowledge of the telescope your attempting to make fun of, which I’m guessing isn’t up your alley. NASA has the specs on their website, if your ever honestly interested.

  11. It’s so good
    But why it is called James Web

    http://www.complexob7.com

  12. Meanwhile NASA making plans to go to the moon as soon as 2024,
    “We lost the technology to go back to the moon” lol how much money has NASA stolen? Criminals.

  13. Soooooo
    How come this telescope is being launched by Ariane Space and not by SpaceX or USA?

  14. Glen Lindstrom | August 28, 2021 at 11:06 am | Reply

    Your an ignorant idiot ,
    trillions for arms to kill other humans, 10 billion is a coin in a can in comparison ,it’s our duty now to sustain humanity for the future,or at least try, sitting with a thumb in our ass doing nothing is not a human trait, (for the vast majority of us anyway)and if you think we’re it, the only living creatures in the known universe, billions of galaxies each with millions of stars, each star with possible planets ,and possibly life,
    Then you are definitely as ignorant as you are just plain stupid, wake up idiot

  15. The technological spinoffs from pioneering research like the moon missions, Hubble and JWT, multiply the investment by a factor of 4 to 1. The transistor that drives your cell phone…the photo cells in the phone camera, the laptop you’re using, Bluetooth, solar cells, lithium ion batteries…all had their Genesis in the needs of the space scientists for smaller, more efficient and lighter materials and technology.

  16. Vivian C Graham | August 29, 2021 at 9:21 am | Reply

    I don’t understand why those people who vented their anger against the James Webb observatory bother to look at this site. If it makes you sick to see it, don’t look.
    Also, NASA and other agencies/countries do look at the Earth, studying everything from climate change and hurricanes to archaeology and accessing more water sources. The science learned along the way has provided us with so many products/industries that today’s young adults cannot imagine living without.

  17. I don’t doubt the long term benefit of most of these projects. I just do not like the arrogance implying that things such lithium ion batteries, micro chips, etc. would not be developed except for these projects.

  18. BibhutibhusanPatel | August 31, 2021 at 12:17 am | Reply

    The Universe we view is còntained òf only visìble matter anď known forms of energy.Matter or energy can not be destroyed or created,simply transformation fròm matter to energy is possible or vice versa.Now,if energy òr matter is present in some òther invìsible form to name as dark energy/matter must be dected at SMBH,specìficly òn magnetic part.Does dark energy ìncreases the mass of visible matter to contribute any acceleration of expanding universe.New Telescope JW will help to seek answers to such questiòns.

  19. BibhutibhusanPatel | August 31, 2021 at 12:31 am | Reply

    The visible universe has some sùspected mystries like dark energy/matter if exist.Is this has any effect on acceleration in expansion òf ùniverse or ĺikely has any còntribution in ìncrease òf mass òf galaxies.Ñew James Webb Space Telescope can able to find some solutions.

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