Webb’s Coldest Instrument Reaches Operating Temperature

MIRI, the mid-infrared camera and spectrograph (left), was installed in the science payload module of the James Webb Space Telescope (right) on 29 April 2013 at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

PARIS (ESA PR) — With help from a cryocooler, Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument has dropped down to just a few degrees above the lowest temperature matter can reach and is ready for calibration.

The James Webb Space Telescope will see the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang, but to do that its instruments first need to get cold – really cold. On 7 April, Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) – a joint development by ESA and NASA – reached its final operating temperature below 7 kelvins (minus 266 degrees Celsius).

(more…)

James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI Instrument Marks a First Milestone in Space

JWST’s Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI), for which the UK leads the European Consortium. (Credit: STFC RAL Space)

NASA Mission Update
Jan. 5, 2022

While the Webb team was tensioning the sunshield, other activities were also taking place among the instruments. One milestone: unlocking the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) Contamination Control Cover. We’ve asked Gillian Wright, European principal investigator for MIRI, to tell us about it.

“MIRI has a Contamination Control Cover, because the constraints of its extra-cold operating temperature mean that it is not possible to include other means of dealing with ice contamination, such as heaters for sensitive components. For launch it was safest to have this cover locked, and the timing for operating it is driven by the temperatures of the observatory.

“To unlock the cover, we first had to power on our Instrument Control Electronics and confirm that they were functioning correctly. Then the commands to the cover could be sent. After successfully completing the tests and unlocking the cover, the instrument control electronics were then powered off before the next steps on the sunshield tensioning activities. This key step for MIRI was monitored remotely by team members in Europe, ready to provide assistance if it were needed.

“The picture here shows tired and happy MIRI team members at the Mission Operations Center in Baltimore, after completing this first of the many MIRI commissioning steps. The MIRI Contamination Control Cover will be closed in the next few days to protect the optics from any possible contaminants as the observatory cools. It will then be reopened much later in the timeline, when MIRI has cooled to its operating temperature of just 7K and is ready to look out at the sky.”

—Gillian Wright, European principal investigator for the Mid-Infrared Instrument, UK Astronomy Technology Centre

Germany Made Important Contributions to James Webb Space Telescope

Shown fully stowed, the James Webb Space Telescope’s Deployable Tower Assembly that connects the upper and lower sections of the spacecraft will extend 48 inches (1.2 meters) after launch. (Credits: Northrop Grumman)
  • On December 25, 2021 at 9:20 a.m. local time (1:20 p.m. CET), the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest space telescope of all time to date, took off from the spaceport of the European Space Agency on an Ariane 5 launcher.
  • A total of four instruments are housed on James Webb.  Two of them come from Europe and have German shares.
  • The German Space Agency at DLR coordinates the German contributions for ESA and for an instrument in the national space program.

KOUROU, French Guiana (DLR PR) — James Webb Space Telescope – JWST for short – was launched from the European spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) on its journey to Lagrange Point 2, 1.5 million kilometers away.  James Webb is the largest and most expensive space telescope of all time, which has now started its long journey into the depths of space with an Ariane 5 upper stage ‘Made in Germany’. In addition, MIRI (Mid Infrared Iinstrument) and Near Infrared ( Near Infrared Spectrograph) – two of the four instruments on board – German parts: The near-infrared instrument NIRSpec was built by Airbus in Ottobrunn and Friedrichshafen. With this instrument, scientists from all over the world want to analyze the ‘hours of birth’ of the universe. NIRSpec is primarily intended to detect the radiation from the first galaxies that formed shortly after the Big Bang. 

(more…)

James Webb Space Telescope Launch Celebrated by UK

The James Webb Space Telescope previously deployed its primary mirror in March 2020. Its folded sunshield is also visible in this image. (Credits: Northrop Grumman)

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The once-in-a-generation James Webb Space Telescope has launched, with scientists and engineers across the UK playing a vital role in the mission.

The telescope, known as ‘Webb’, blasted off from the Arianespace spaceport in French Guiana on 25 December 2021 at 12:20 pm – the culmination of decades of scientific collaboration.

(more…)

NASA’s Webb Telescope Will Have the Coolest Camera in Space

Engineers conduct a “receiving inspection” of the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center after its journey from the United Kingdom. (Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn)

Before the MIRI instrument – one of four scientific instruments aboard the observatory – can operate, it has to be cooled down to almost the coldest temperature matter can reach.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Set to launch on Dec. 22, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the largest space observatory in history, and it has an equally gargantuan task: to collect infrared light from the distant corners of the cosmos, enabling scientists to probe the structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

(more…)