Last month, an Ariane 5 rocket carried the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) safely to space, the latest of 112 total launches for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) primary workhorse rocket. With a 95.5% success rate, the Ariane 5 has been a reliable ride to space for decades, but its story is about to come to an end. ESA is no longer building new Ariane 5 vehicles, instead developing its next-generation rocket, the Ariane 6, which is intended to provide cheaper access to space. This week, the first completed core stage of a new Ariane 6 rocket arrived at the spaceport outside Korou in French Guiana for testing.Continue reading “With Webb Safely Launched, Focus Shifts to the Ariane 6”
On December 25th, 2021, astronomers and space exploration enthusiasts got the greatest Christmas present of all! After years of delays, cost overruns, and additional testing, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. In what was a real nail-biter, the Ariane 5 rocket and its precious payload reached orbit without a hitch. But as is so often the case, the deployment of the JWST was just the first in a series of “hurry up and wait” episodes.
Typically, periods of waiting are seeing are accompanied by plenty of worry and doubt. Luckily, there have been several positive developments since the JWST launched that could help alleviate these anxieties. The latest is how the telescope successfully deployed its aft momentum flap, an instrument that will keep the telescope oriented during its mission. The news was announced yesterday (December 30th) via @NASAWebb, NASA’s official Twitter account for the Webb telescope, and the JWST page at NASA Blogs.Continue reading “JWST Just Deployed a Sail That Lets it Stop Getting Pushed Around by the Sun’s Radiation.”
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On Oct. 12th, 2021, after years of waiting and cost overruns, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) finally arrived safely at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The crews began unboxing the next-generation observatory and getting it ready for integration with the Ariane 5 rocket that will take it to space. Then, an “incident” occurred where a clamp band suddenly released, sending vibrations throughout the facility. Once again, the JWST’s launch date was pushed back while crews investigated the source of the problem.
But lo and behold, the due diligence is now done, and the James Webb is back on track! According to the latest news from the ESA, crews have finished fueling the JWST’s thrusters in preparation for its launch, which is scheduled for Dec. 22nd. The Webb will use these thrusters to make course corrections after separating from the Ariane 5 rocket in orbit, maintaining its prescribed orbit, and repointing the observatory during operations.Continue reading “After 10 Days of Dangerous, Careful Work, James Webb has Been Fully Fueled up”
On Oct. 12th, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) arrived safely at Port de Pariacabo in French Guiana after spending 16 days traveling between California and South America. Since then, the observatory was transported to a cleanroom in the Guyanese Space Center (GSC). Here, crews “unboxed” the observatory from its protective cargo container in preparation for launch – now targetted for Dec. 18th.
These events were captured in a series of beautiful images recently shared by the Guyanese Space Center, the European Space Agency (ESA), and NASA via their JWST Twitter accounts (more are posted on the NASA JWST Flickr page). This process involved carefully lifting the telescope from its packing container and raising it vertically, the same configuration Webb its launches to space aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.Continue reading “I Could Look at James Webb Unboxing Pictures all Day”
Final preparations are in full swing for the inaugural flight of Europe’s new light launcher – the Vega booster – from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Launch crews are preparing the new rocket for blastoff as early as Feb 9, 2012 from the new Vega launch site at Kourou.
Vega has been under development for 9 years by ESA and its partners, Italian space agency ASI, French space agency CNES and industry.
The 30 meter tall Vega will join ESA’s venerable Ariane rocket family and the newly inaugurated Soyuz as the third class of booster rockets to launch from ESA’s rapidly expanding South American Spaceport at the Guiana Space Center.
This gives ESA an enormous commercial leap and wide ranging capability to launch all types of satellites from small to big and heavy.
The 4 stage Vega rocket is now fully assembled at the launch pad for the initial qualification flight dubbed VV1. The launch window stretches for a few days beyond Feb. 9.
The Vega VV1 qualification flight will carry 9 satellites to orbit.
The payloads are housed inside the ‘upper composite’ composed of the payload fairing and adapter and were integrated on top of the AVUM fourth stage by pad workers on Jan. 24, who completed and verified all the electrical and mechanical connections and links.
The satellites aboard include the LARES laser relativity satellite, ALMASat-1 from ASI and seven CubeSats from an assortment of European Universities.
The main tasks remaining before the maiden flight are the final checkout of the assembled vehicle, the last launch countdown rehearsal and the fuelling of the restartable AVUM 4th stage with liquid propellants.
The Vega launch site is located at the previous ELA-1 complex, originally used for Ariane 1 and Ariane 3 missions and has been rebuilt and upgraded.
The Vega rocket is specifically designed to fill a market gap in ESA’s satellite launch capabilities, namely the smaller, lightweight science and earth observation satellites.
It can launch payloads ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg in mass, depending on the customers orbital requirements.
Vega affords ESA full market coverage by complementing the medium and heavy weight payload categories covered by the Soyuz and Ariane V rockets.
Watch Universe Today for Vega maiden launch coverage and special launch pictures