NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Reaches Final Orbit
The James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its final destination around 1.5 million kilometers from Earth after nearly a month since its launch.
To reach its target, a thruster onboard JWST fired for five minutes to change its velocity to around 1.5 meters per second. The maneuver placed the spacecraft into a halo orbit around the Earth-sun L-2 Lagrange point.
Keith Parrish, JWST observatory commissioning manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, officially announced the milestone during a call with reporters. He said using the thruster was not necessary for JWST to reach its destination, but operators decided to deploy it to shape the ideal orbit, SpaceNews reported Tuesday.
Parrish said that the JWST team chose to execute the maneuvering mission for accuracy, logistical reasons, fuel efficiency and routine stationkeeping reasons. Parrish said JWST will fire its thrusters for a brief time once every three weeks to fine-tune its orbit. He added that the spacecraft will have enough fuel to operate beyond its 10-year science lifetime.
Lee Feinberg, JWST optical telescope element manager at Goddard, said the organization still has months of work ahead to commission the observatory. According to Feinberg, the telescope will capture 18 separate images of a single bright star, an exercise in which controllers will adjust the position of the JSWT’s mirrors to stack images.
Officials believe it could take around five months for the telescope to be fully commissioned. Once commissioning is complete, JWST will send the first image to scientists on Earth.
The JWST observatory was developed to gather data about the far reaches of the universe. Its goal is to enlighten scientists about the origins of the very first stars and galaxies that were formed over 13.5 billion years ago.
Tags: Goddard Space Flight Center James Webb Space Telescope JWST Keith Parrish Lee Feinberg NASA space SpaceNews