Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies contact@dias.ie 00353 (0) 16140100

Launch date for James Webb Space Telescope announced

ESA, NASA, and Arianespace have today (8 September 2021) jointly defined 18 December 2021 as the target date for the James Webb Space Telescope to launch into space from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency. Professor Tom Ray, Director of Cosmic Physics at DIAS, and his team in the Astronomy & Astrophysics Section developed the special infrared filters for the Mid Infra-Red Instrument (MIRI) onboard.

Webb will observe the Universe at wavelengths longer than visible light, namely in the near-infrared and mid-infrared. To do so, it carries a suite of state-of-the-art cameras, spectrographs and coronagraphs. Webb will cover longer wavelengths of light than the Hubble Space telescope and has a 100 times improved sensitivity, which opens up a new window to the Universe. The longer wavelengths enable Webb to uncover hidden parts of our Solar System, peer inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming, reveal the composition of exoplanets’ atmospheres in more detail, and look farther back in time to see the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe.

Webb is the next great space science observatory, designed to answer outstanding questions about the Universe and to make breakthrough discoveries in all fields of astronomy. Webb will see farther into our origins – from the formation of stars and planets, to the birth of the first galaxies in the early Universe. Credit: ESA.

“ESA is proud that Webb will launch from Europe’s Spaceport on an Ariane 5 rocket specially adapted for this mission. We are on track, the spaceport is busy preparing for the arrival of this extraordinary payload, and the Ariane 5 elements for this launch are coming together. We are fully committed, with all Webb partners, to the success of this once-in-a-generation mission,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation.

“We now know the day that thousands of people have been working towards for many years, and that millions around the world are looking forward to. Webb and its Ariane 5 launch vehicle are ready, thanks to the excellent work across all mission partners. We are looking forward to seeing the final preparations for launch at Europe’s Spaceport,” said Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.

Stay tuned for more updates about the launch from the MIRI team at DIAS as the date draws closer and in the meantime read more in the official ESA Press Release.