The James Webb Space Telescope


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is planned for launch in 2018 as a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be optimised for operation at near- to mid-infrared wavelengths (0.6-28 microns) to enable exploration of the high redshift and obscured universe. Its primary mirror will be over twice the diameter of the Hubble mirror making it more than 400 times more sensitive than current ground-based or space infrared telescopes. JWST is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Mission Parameters

  • Primary mirror diameter 6.5m
  • Wavelength coverage 0.6-28 µm
  • Mission lifetime: 5-10 years
  • Orbit around L2 (1.5 million km from Earth)
  • A very large sunshield (~22m x 10m)
  • Launch Vehicle: Ariane V
  • Launch date: 2018
  • Science instrumentation: IR cameras and spectrographs

JWST science themes

  • First Light and Reionization
  • Assembly of Galaxies
  • The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems
  • Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life

There will be four science instruments on the JWST Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM): the Near Infrared/Visible Camera (NIRCAM), Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSPEC), Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI), Fine Guidance Sensor/Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS). For a description of the instruments click here.The University of Leicester Space Research Centre provides the Mechanical Engineering Lead for the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI), is responsible for design and provision of the MIRI Primary Structure (in collaboration with the Danish National Space Centre), and provides support for MIRI test and calibration activities.

MIRI is being developed jointly by Europe and the USA. The European Consortium for MIRI is led by the Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh, managed by EADS Astrium UK, and the AIV (Assembly, Integration & Verification) and Thermal Leads are provided by Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The UK contribution to MIRI is funded by the UK Space Agency.

The JWST display at the National Space Centre features a full-size test model of MIRI, provided by the University's Space Research Centre.

For further information on the MIRI, please click this link.

Further information about JWST is available on the NASA and ESA Web(b) sites:

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