James Webb Space Telescope

JWST’s primary mirror segment, coated with gold

Pictured: James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) Engineering Design Unit (EDU) primary mirror segment, coated with gold

Engineers play an important role in science and discovery. Engineers design and build the research equipment, delivery systems and analysis tools for scientists to do their work.

James Webb Space Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope – The science instruments are the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope. The four science instruments will be contained within the Integrated Science Instrument Module or ISIM. This unit will house the four main instruments that will detect light from distant stars and galaxies, and planets orbiting other stars. ((video 0:30)

Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

  • Flyby of JWST at L2 Point (video 0:58) – This animation, designed as an homage to a shot from “2001: A Space Odyssey”, flies by and circles around a model of JWST at L2. The opening of the sequence illustrates the L2 location, showing the Moon in the foreground, Earth in the mid-ground, and the Sun in the background.

Engineering ideas

  • instrumentation, measure, test, monitor, track, record, contain, hold

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • watch the animation showing how engineers have planned how the telescope will unfold (video) in space.
  • Design a Foldable “Solar Panel” – develop a solar panel that can solar panel be folded into a box for shipping to the international space station. Your solar panel must be at least 1 foot or about 30 cm, by 3 feet or about 90 cm in size when unfolded.
  • Build It Yourself: Satellite! Game – Engineer your own satellite by choosing what science it will be used to study, and then deciding what wavelengths, instruments, and optics will help you learn the most about the science you’ve chosen. After you launch your satellite, you’ll see what it looks like, and learn what real mission has data similar to the one you created. (requires Flash)

Learn more…

  • James Webb Space Telescope – The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. The project is working to a 2018 launch date. The Webb will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.