More news about the James Webb Space Telescope, including additional technical information about the telescope, can be found at NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Web site.
Track Webb's development from idea to reality. Get the latest information about the progress of the Webb mission, including tests passed and construction updates.
08/13/2012: Exploring FGS/NIRISS
The Fine Guidance Sensor/Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS) is the second of the Webb Space Telescope's Instruments to be delivered to the Goddard Space Flight Center. NASA has put together a feature on the instrument and how it works.
07/30/2012: NASA receives FGS-NIRISS
The Webb Telescope's Fine Guidance Sensor-Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS) arrives at Goddard Space-Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. FGS-NIRISS is the Canadian Space Agency's contribution to the telescope, and the second of Webb's instruments to arrive.
06/01/2012: MIRI Arrives at Goddard
The Mid-Infrared Instrument, the first of Webb's instruments to be completed, has arrived at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. MIRI was built by a European consortium for the European Space Agency, and traveled from London to the US.
05/09/2012: Europe Delivers First Webb Instrument
The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), the first of the Webb Telescope's instruments to be completed, is on its way to the United States and NASA. MIRI successfully underwent a rigorous testing and calibration phase, proving its ability to function with precision in extreme conditions. The instrument, one of two being provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), will be sent to Goddard Space-Flight Center in Maryland.
05/08/2012: Flight Hardware for Tower Supporting Webb's Mirrors, Science Instruments Complete
Components for the structure that connects the Optical Telescope Element to the spacecraft on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope are now complete.
04/18/2012: Webb Technologies Taking Root in Other Industries
Technological advances created for the Webb Telescope are moving into other industries. Find out how Webb is influencing microscopes and cameras, measuring the human eye, and evaluating the strength of composite materials.
04/17/2012: Key Spacecraft Structure for the Webb Telescope Passes Design Review
The structure that supports Webb's sunshield and keeps it aligned has passed its Critical Design Review and is now ready for manufacturing. The structure holds the sunshield in alignment with the spacecraft so that the primary mirror is protected from the Sun's light.
12/21/2011: Cryogenic Testing Complete on Webb's Mirrors
Cryogenic testing is complete for the final six primary mirror segments and a secondary mirror that will fly on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. The milestone represents the successful culmination of a process that took years and broke new ground in manufacturing and testing large mirrors. Webb's mirrors were chilled to -379 degrees Fahrenheit during the process.
11/17/2011: Time-lapse Video Shows Webb Frame Construction
At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, a giant steel frame has been built to help assembled Webb's mirrors and instruments. Watch as the frame comes together in this sped-up video. The U-shaped optical assembly stand is 24 feet high, 52 feet wide and 41 feet long and weighs 139,000 pounds. It will cradle the entire 3.7 metric ton optical telescope and be used to install mirror segments and other components onto the telescope structure with better than one one-thousandth of an inch precision.
09/13/2011: Webb's Mirror Coating Completed
All of the Webb Telescope's mirrors have now been coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold, in order to best reflect infrared light into the science instruments.
06/29/2011: Final Polishing of Webb's Mirrors Completed
One of the Webb Telescope's most critical milestones has been reached: all of its mirrors have been polished. Mirror polishing is one of the most challenging tasks for any telescope due to the incredible precision needed to create clear images of distant cosmic objects.
11/04/2010: Webb's Coming Attractions
Get a sneak peak at the mysteries Webb will try to unravel. Scientists have used supercomputers to create visualizations of the kinds of processes Webb will encounter as it explores the universe.
09/28/2010: Webb Telescope's Unique Structural "Heart" Passes Extreme Tests
Webb's structural assembly, called the Integrated Science Instrument Module Flight Structure (ISIM), has survived exposure to extreme cryogenic temperatures, proving it will remain stable in the harsh environment of space.
09/10/2010: Webb's Mirror Segment Coated in Gold
The Webb Telescope's primary mirror segments are undergoing the final step in the manufacturing process — coating in gold. The first of Webb's mirror segments has been coated in an ultra-thin layer of gold to best reflect the infrared light the telescope seeks.
09/08/2010: Fine Guidance Sensor Test Unit Arrives
The Canadian Space Agency has delivered Webb's Fine Guidance Sensor test unit, enabling further testing of Webb's components. The Fine Guidance Sensor will help target Webb.
06/23/2010: Home for the James Webb Space Telescope will be "L2"
The term “L-2” may sound futuristic and mysterious, but it’s really a location nearly a million miles away in space for the James Webb Space Telescope be placed that allows the observatory to stay in a fixed position relative to the Earth and sun with a minimal amount of energy needed for course correction.
05/28/2010: Webb Model On Display in New York City
The full-sized Webb Space Telescope model will be on display in New York City’s Battery Park from June 1-6 as part of the World Science Festival. See the model and stop by on June 4 for a night of stargazing and discussion of Webb’s potential discoveries.
04/28/2010: Webb Passes Critical Design Review
The Webb Space Telescope has passed its most significant mission milestone to date, the Mission Critical Design Review. Reviewers have confirmed that the observatory will meet all of the science and engineering requirements of its mission.
03/05/2010: First Webb Mirror Segment Polished
The first Webb telescope primary mirror segment has been polished, setting the stage for the remaining 17. The “cryogenic polishing” method used ensures that the mirror will meet the exact shape needed for the telescope’s optics to function when it is exposed to the brutal cold of space.
02/16/2010: Sunshield Passes Design Review
The Webb Telescope's five-layer sunshield has passed its critical design review, certifying that its design is complete and meets mission requirements. Manufacturing and test plans have also been reviewed and approved, paving the way for the construction of the sunshield.
09/22/2009: Engineers Practice on Webb Telescope Simulator
Engineers are working on a full-scale model of the Webb Telescope’s key parts in order to develop Webb’s hardware design and gain experience handling Webb’s large elements.
09/15/2009: Webb Space Telescope Begins to Take Shape at Goddard
A major component of the Webb telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module structure, recently arrived at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. for testing. The Integrated Science Instrument Module, or ISIM, is the skeleton that will hold Webb’s four scientific instruments, electronics, harnesses, and other components.
07/31/2009: James Webb Space Telescope Mirrors Are Readied for Test
Three of the 18 James Webb Space Telescope mirror segments have been mounted on a test stand July 30 at the X-ray & Cryogenic Facility at NASA’ s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The mirror segments will be chilled to minus 414 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they can withstand the extreme temperatures of space.
07/15/2009: Keeping a "Trained Eye" on the James Webb Space Telescope
NASA and Northrop Grumman training their engineers on how to handle and assemble the telescope’s Optical Telescope Element (OTE), also known as the “eye” of the telescope. A mock-up of the OTE’s Primary Mirror Backplane Assembly, which supports the telescope’s mirror segments, was used to simulate how the element frame will be handled when the actual components of the telescope are being assembled.
04/08/2009: James Webb Space Telescope First Flight Mirror Completes Cryogenic Testing
The first mirror segment that will fly on the James Webb Space Telescope, built by Northrop Grumman Corporation, has completed its first series of cryogenic temperature tests in the X-ray and Cryogenic Facility at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
02/09/2009: Webb Telescope Gets A Backbone
The Webb Space Telescope's spine, called the backplane, is now under construction. The backplane will support Webb's 21-foot-diameter (6.5 m) primary mirror as well as the telescope's array of instruments, for a total load of 7,500 pounds (3,401 kg). Made of aerospace composite materials, the backplane is designed to provide thermal stability at cryogenic temperatures below minus 400 Fahrenheit (-204 C). It will be completed by late 2010.
The first of 18 mirror segments that will fly on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope arrived this week at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The mirrors will be chilled in a special vacuum chamber to prepare them to meet the extreme temperatures they will encounter in space.
09/17/2008: Mid-infrared Instrument Passes Tests
Development models for components of the Mid-Infrared Instrument on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have passed a series of temperature and vibration tests. Now that engineers know the models could survive the ride to space, they have begun building parts of the instrument.
07/10/2008: NASA Approves Webb Telescope Project for Development and Launch
NASA has formally approved the JWST project to move into its implementation phase. This decision followed a successful Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in March 2008 and a Non-Advocate Review in April. While all the science instruments and the "long lead" items like the primary mirror segments are already being manufactured, this approval marks the transition of the program into "Phase C" (Final Design and Fabrication). Phase D covers system assembly, integration, and testing and launch. Since portions of this work occur while other subsystems are still in fabrication, NASA aficionados refer to this entire period as Phase C/D.
03/20/2008: Webb Sunshield Preliminary Design Review Complete
With the completion of the sunshield's preliminary design review, detailed engineering can move forward. Webb's sunshield is essential to the success of the telescope, protecting the telescope from heat that would interfere with the instruments.
07/16/2007: NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Reach Agreement on JWST
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have reached an agreement on the agencies’ participation in the JWST mission. The CSA will develop and deliver the Webb Fine Guidance Sensors and provide functional support.
06/18/2007: ESA and NASA Sign Agreement on JWST
The European Space Agency and NASA signed the official agreements defining the terms of cooperation on the James Webb Space Telescope mission. NASA, responsible for the overall management and operations of Webb, will build the spacecraft, the telescope and the platform that holds the instruments. ESA will provide the launch with an Ariane 5 rocket. NASA will provide the NIRCam instrument, while ESA provides NIRSpec. The third instrument, MIRI, is being built by a consortium of European institutions and NASA/JPL.
07/18/2006: Northrop Grumman Demonstrates JWST Telescope Control System at Keck Observatory
The Northrop Grumman Corporation team developing JWST has successfully tested software that will be used to bring the space observatory's 18 mirror segments into alignment following launch. The test helps verify that the mirrors will produce clear images following the rough vibrations and disturbances during launch…
06/21/2006: Mirror Backplane Prototype Structure for James Webb Space Telescope Delivered for Testing at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
An important element of JWST, the Backplane Stability Test Article (BSTA), was delivered to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center for a series of rigorous tests designed to verify its readiness for use in space. The BSTA is a full-scale sub-section of the mirror's backplane, a structure that holds and supports the observatory's sensitive, lightweight mirrors and mirror controls…
05/15/2006: James Webb Space Telescope Sunshield Membrane Passes Critical Space-Readiness Tests
A Northrop Grumman Corp. team successfully completed a series of stringent tests that proved a key element of JWST can function successfully in its planned space environment. The tests were conducted on JWST's sunshield membrane, a five-layer structure approximately the size of a tennis court. The sunshield will block solar light and keep the observatory operating at cryogenic temperatures, enabling its infrared sensors to see distant galaxies, early stars, and planetary systems and help astronomers better understand dark matter.
03/28/2006: Northrop Grumman/NASA Team Wins NASA Award for Developing Cost-Effective Testing System for the James Webb Space Telescope
A joint Northrop Grumman Corporation/NASA team received an Exceptional Achievement Award from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for developing a cost-effective system to test JWST. The team created an entirely new system for testing JWST's primary mirror optics in what may be the most complex cryogenic vacuum test ever, replacing a traditional approach in record time and cutting costs…
01/27/2006: System Definition Review (SDR)
JWST successfully passed the System Definition Review on Jan. 24–27. Two independent teams reviewed the overall quality and completeness of the system architecture, operational concepts, requirements, performance, and verification plan. Both teams were impressed with the overall quality of the work and indicated that the program was ready to move toward…
10/06/2005: Mirror Segment for James Webb Space Telescope Delivered for Polishing
Manufacturing of JWST progressed further with the delivery of the telescope's first mirror segment for grinding and polishing. Tinsley Laboratories in Richmond, Calif., will perform high-precision grinding, polishing, and testing at ambient temperatures on the mirror segment. The mirrors will be polished to tolerances as tight as 20 nanometers, or less than one millionth of an inch…
08/01/2005: JWST Passes Review by Scientific Assessment Team
The Scientific Assessment Team (SAT) was chartered by NASA to look at the science priorities of JWST and its role in astronomy in the next decade. The SAT found that the scientific case for JWST is as strong or stronger than when initially conceived. The SAT recommended some streamlining in the telescope capabilities so as to focus on its unique infrared capabilities de-emphasazing optical and near-infrared wavelengths. The Science Working Group has endorsed the SAT recommendations and they have been adopted by the JWST project.
11/15/2004: Fabrication of James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Moves Forward; Northrop Grumman Teammate Axsys Technologies Opens New Facility
JWST moved a major step forward with the opening of a state-of-the-art facility in Cullman, Ala., that will machine the observatory's optical components…
09/10/2003: NASA Approves James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Architecture
NASA today announced a major milestone in the development of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the selection of a beryllium-based mirror technology for the telescope's 6.5-meter…
09/11/2002: NASA Announces Contract for Next-Generation Space Telescope Named After Space Pioneer
NASA has selected TRW to build the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. This space-based observatory will be known as the James Webb Space…
06/08/1998: NASA Selects Home for Next Generation Space Telescope
The duties of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., will be expanded to include the management of science operations for the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), NASA…