back to article James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its new home – an orbit almost a million miles from Earth

The James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex space observatory built by NASA, has reached its final destination: L2, the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, an orbit located about a million miles away. Mission control sent instructions to fire the telescope's thrusters at 1400 EST (1900 UTC) on Monday. The small …

  1. EBG

    thank you

    for a decent article on this landmark.

    Unlike the UK "quality press". Who start by telling us it's the largest telescope ever (no qualification like space-borne) and go downhill from there. I'm look at you, The Guardian.

    1. Jim Willsher

      Re: thank you

      Yeah but Guardian and quality aren't normally used in the same sentence.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: thank you

        They probably spelled it 'qualty'.

      2. EBG

        Re: thank you

        I carefully placed the words in 2 different sentences :-)

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: thank you

          With a nice lengthy buffer sentence inbetween for good measure :-)

      3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: thank you

        Guardian? I'm sure you mean Grauniad.

        Anyway, I'm a reguarl reader of them as -imho- it's one of few only who mostly do a decent job of rather independent journalism.

    2. You aint sin me, roit

      At least they had the grace to correct it

      First sentence of the report in the Guardian

      "The world's largest and most powerful space telescope..."

      With a note at the end acknowledging the correction.

      It's possible that the error was the fault of the original source, it's an Associated Press report.

    3. Dr_N

      Re: thank you

      You've spelt Grauniad wrong.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: thank you

        Well, to be fair, ISTM that you've spelled spelled and wrongly wrongly.

    4. Lars Silver badge

      Re: thank you

      One of the few one can read without vomiting all over the place.

    5. oiseau

      Re: thank you

      Quite so.

      But ...

      ... primary mirror and secondary was unfurled this month ...

      Actually, I believe the primary mirror was unfolded, not unfurled.

      What was unfurled was the multi-layer heat shield.


      1. EBG


        and a lack of cooling wouldn't " trigger misleading signals", it would swamp the detector with thermal noise that would blot out signals at the strength they are looking for.

        I criticised an el reg article a while back that had obviously be reworded by someone without a clue of the subject matter. This has the same feel to it.

    6. JDX Gold badge

      Re: thank you

      This article and the BBC one are virtually identical.

      Although El Reg say it's Nasa's most complex observatory... is that qualification necessary, has someone else got a better one?

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Lars Silver badge



    NASA, ESA and CSA have collaborated on the telescope since 1996. ESA's participation in construction and launch was approved by its members in 2003 and an agreement was signed between ESA and NASA in 2007. In exchange for full partnership, representation and access to the observatory for its astronomers, ESA is providing the NIRSpec instrument, the Optical Bench Assembly of the MIRI instrument, an Ariane 5 ECA launcher, and manpower to support operations.[116][167] The CSA will provide the Fine Guidance Sensor and the Near-Infrared Imager Slitless Spectrograph plus manpower to support operations.[168]

    Several thousand scientists, engineers, and technicians spanning 15 countries have contributed to the build, test and integration of the JWST.[169] A total of 258 companies, government agencies, and academic institutions are participating in the pre-launch project; 142 from the United States, 104 from 12 European countries, and 12 from Canada.[169] Other countries as NASA partners, such as Australia, have or will be involved in post-launch operation.

    1. Chris G

      Re: Partnership

      Yes, not quite NASA's with knowledge and engineering from so many others.

      I am a little confused about the 180 orbit time, what is JWST orbiting in thatvtime if it is in lockstep with the Earth around the sun ( the whole point of a Lagrange position).

      1. Fonant

        Re: Partnership

        It orbits the L2 point every 180 days. I was confused too!

      2. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

        Re: Partnership

        There’s a pretty good video here that explains amongst other things, the position, it’s orbit and why, in layman’s terms too!

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Partnership

      Don't forget Arianespace providing a rocket which put JWST on it's correct vector so precisely, that they've saved them five years worth of manoeuvring fuel.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Partnership


        It's all very family.

        "Immediately following the successful first test launch of an Ariane 1 on 24 December 1979, the French space agency Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES) and the ESA created a new company, Arianespace, for the purpose of promoting, marketing, and managing Ariane operations.[13][2] According to Arianespace, at the time of its establishment, it was the world's first launch services company."

        Arianespace "is the marketing and sales organization for the European space industry and various component suppliers."

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    For the planners and engineers involved:

    (if you turn it round and look backwards, you might be able to see it)

  5. Fonant

    Surely the L2 point from the Earth takes exactly a year to orbit the sun?

    Aha, they mean the telescope completes its tiny orbit of the L2 point every 180 days. "Utilizing thrust every three weeks or so from small rocket engines aboard Webb will keep it orbiting L2, looping around it in a halo orbit once every six months."

  6. Jim Willsher

    It doesn't matter how you look at this, it's a pretty damned good bit of work by some very clever people.

    Spend 10 years building something that's several metres tall, sit it on top of a "bomb waiting to happen", sling it into space, let it hurtle along at ~10 KM/s (gradually slowing) for around a million miles, and it arrives on time and is exactly where it's supposed to be. No options to retry it or "have another go", and no-one forgot to remove that last cable-tie.

    Good design and proper planning really is worth the effort.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      It doesn't matter how you look at this, it's a pretty damned good bit of work by some very clever people.

      As long as you overlook that "fifteen years late and twenty times over budget" business, which was in large part due to those very clever people screwing up on a regular basis. Even when it was ready to go launch was delayed because of a mis-wired plug.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Are you for real?

        I guess you must be that unique little flower that was able to walk and talk from the moment of birth.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        It's space. The JWST is the first of its kind.

        I'd like to see the telescope you build from scratch.

        1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

          Well then plan for that!

          The quality on the telescope is excellent. The quality on project management is clearly absurd.

      3. Filippo Silver badge

        I routinely see "fifteen years late and twenty times over budget" on things like IT projects that are basically replicating stuff thousands of other organizations have been doing for decades. Just saying.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          > replicating stuff thousands of other organizations have been doing for decades

          True, but those are politician-driven projects, full of power struggles, pork barrels and general incompetence. This here was a scientist project, so one could had hoped it would run more smoothly. Not totally smooth of course, since science has its own power struggle and pork barrel problems, but those are way smaller, and most importantly you (usually) lack the fundamental incompetency issue.

          Anyway - it finally managed to get there, all is well that ends well!

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Those are politician-driven projects, full of power struggles, pork barrels and general incompetence.

            While this was designed sub-contracted to the usual pork-barrelled defence contractors, down-scoped, budget reduced, re-scoped, cancelled, restored, sub-contracted, launch vehicles (payload size G forces) changed because of politics etc etc

      4. 4d3fect

        Cursing the darkness?

  7. RobLang

    ...and "blow" through a "whopping" $10bn in funding

    Come on Reg, that's a little derogatory for a great achievement, isn't it? $10bn over 25 years for discovering the secrets of the universe is great value for money. In 2008 the UK gov alone blew $850bn in 3 days and what did we discover in the 13 years since? That the richest benefitted the most. I'll take the $10bn Webb telescope any day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...and "blow" through a "whopping" $10bn in funding

      Coming the week after Microsoft spent nearly $70bn to research the question "How many more years can we keep cranking out new versions of Call of Duty?" the Webb telescope looks like a bit of a bargain.

      (Yes I know Microsoft are buying more than that. "How many more years can we keep milking World of Warcraft?", for example.)

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: ...and "blow" through a "whopping" $10bn in funding

        Yeah, but you guys forget that "science" isn't supposed to cost anything: Vinegar and baking soda don't cost much...

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: ...and "blow" through a "whopping" $10bn in funding

      You could try not being triggered by jocular language. I feel you've been baited successfully.

      1. RobLang

        Re: ...and "blow" through a "whopping" $10bn in funding

        You could try not being condescending. I doubt I was baited, I imagine it was a cliché applied inappropriately.

    3. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: ...and "blow" through a "whopping" $10bn in funding

      It's 5% of 1% of the US GDP for one year...

      Billions of ${currency} sound alot until you scale to a population.

      Given the joint nature of the project we should be distributing that cost over a population of ~800 million people.

      So that's ~$12.50/person over 25 years (or maybe over ten years for the duration of the science mission rather than the build process).

    4. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

      Re: ...and "blow" through a "whopping" $10bn in funding

      One of the senior ESA bosses described the ESA's contribution in terms of something like 1 euro per tax payer per year for about 10 years. I think that's a bargain.

  8. werdsmith Silver badge

    Absolutely fantastic, I'm so pleased it's going to plan. It's going to feed that hunger for knowledge for decades. I can't wait to see some of the new imagery.

  9. Zebo-the-Fat


    Well done to everyone involved, an amazing piece of engineering

  10. Scott Broukell

    I do so hope that the bod responsible within the final payload assembly team remembered, you know, to . . . remove the lens cap!

    1. WonkoTheSane

      That's been asked so often, that they posted this last July:-

  11. John G Imrie

    $10 billion

    $10b is still less than Privet Eye reckons the UK Government will have to pay to bail out the privet energy business.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: $10 billion

      Use a hedge fund?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That is terrific news! So far, this has been a textbook deployment. Kudos to the whole team!

  13. FrenchFries!

    I like the yellow colour

    Not only is it functional, it's very pretty. Like a Sun Flower. I feel like writing a poem now.

    1. Scott Broukell

      Re: I like the yellow colour

      "I feel like writing a poem now." - Go for it, maybe you could get it published in . . . The Mirror.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I like the yellow colour

        "Go for it, maybe you could get it published in . . . The Mirror."

        Better make it a Haiku then. Attention spans and all.

        On the other, that might be a bit intellectual for the MIrror. Maybe stick with a short limerick.

        There was a young 'scope called James

        who such lofty and high aims...

  14. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    What happens when …

    … the neighbours drop round with a present to welcome it to the neighbourhood?

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: What happens when …

      … the neighbours drop round with a present to welcome it to the neighbourhood?

      Science happens — viz, the JWT’s first discovery!

  15. Mr. V. Meldrew

    One Word!.......


  16. Anonymous Coward

    Years and money well spent

    Now just a few months more to start the real science.

    The months will be spent staring at the Large Magellanic Cloud and aligning each mirror so that it results in a single image. This takes so long because in order not to generate too much heat, each adjustment is done separately and even then in stages. Plus, speaking of heat, the JWST is still cooling and as it does new readjustments will have to be made.

    It's too soon to predict when we can break out the popcorn, but here's a pint for the boffins to keep on ice.

    1. TaabuTheCat

      Re: Years and money well spent

      Thanks for the alignment explanation. I was wondering why $10B didn't get you some sort of auto-focus mode - just press the shutter release button half way and and wait for the image to get sharp!

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Years and money well spent

        It is the same idea, just bigger ... and slower ... but ultimately a LOT sharper...

  17. Brad16800

    Just a beer

    Congrats to everyone involved.

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