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ESA and Arianespace ink James Webb Space Telescope launch contract
by Staff Writers
Kourou, French Guiana (ESA) Dec 21, 2015

With its 6.5-meter-diameter telescope, the observatory will be folded up inside the fairing of the Ariane 5 ECA.

ESA (The European Space Agency) and Arianespace have signed a launch services contract for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to be orbited by an Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch is planned for October 2018.

The JWST is a joint project of NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. Europe's contribution includes the Ariane 5 launch, along with two of the four state-of-the-art science instruments optimized for infrared observation of the Universe, and support for scientific operations.

The mission will tackle a wide range of subjects, including detecting the first galaxies in the Universe and following their evolution over time, witnessing the birth of new stars and their planetary systems, and studying planets in our Solar System and around other stars.

With its 6.5-meter-diameter telescope, the observatory will be folded up inside the fairing of the Ariane 5 ECA, the heavy-lift vehicle in Europe's family of launchers. Following its separation from the launcher, in a direct transfer orbit to Lagrange Point 2 (1.5 million km from Earth on the anti-sunward side), the 6.5-ton observatory will shortly begin its deployment maneuvers as it heads to its operational orbit around L2.

"With this key contract now in place with our long-standing partners, we are closer than ever to seeing the scientific goals of this next-generation space observatory realised," says Jan Woerner, ESA's Director General.

"This agreement is a significant milestone for the JWST Program," says Eric Smith, NASA JWST Program Director. "The years of hard work and excellent collaboration between the NASA, ESA and Arianespace teams that have made this possible are testimony to their dedication to the world's next great space telescope."

"It is a great honor for Arianespace to be entrusted with the launch of JWST, a major space observatory which will enable science to make a leap forward in its quest of understanding our Universe. It is also an immense privilege to be part of such an international endeavor gathering the best of United States, Europe and Canada space technology and industry," said Stephane Israel, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace.

The Integrated Science Instrument Module, with all four flight instruments integrated, is currently undergoing final cryo-verification testing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Integration of the 18 mirror segments, which will unfold after launch into the final configuration, is also now underway.

"With this agreement and NASA's continuing solid progress in integrating and testing the JWST Observatory, we are maintaining a steady pace towards the launch in October 2018," said Peter Jensen, ESA's JWST Project Manager.

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