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An Ariane 5 rocket with the James Webb space telescope on board launches from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.
An Ariane 5 rocket with the James Webb space telescope on board launches from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. 
Photograph: Jm Guillon/ESA/EPA

NASA’s next-generation space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, launched successfully after nearly two and a half decades of planning and preparation. The spacecraft was sent into orbit atop a European Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s principal launch facility in French Guiana, South America.

The launch of JWST into orbit took only 26 minutes. JWST would be spending the next month going to its final destination, nearly 1 million miles from Earth, and gently unfurling to attain its final form for probing the universe, after it is free of the rocket.


The launch window for Arianespace begins at 7:20 a.m. ET and closes at 7:52 a.m. ET. The launch provider made every effort to start the window from the beginning.

Hubble Telescope vs. James Webb: A Rocket Ride

Hubble was sent into orbit by NASA’s space shuttle Discovery in the year 1990. One of the Hubble space telescope solar wings stuck while it was unfurling, causing the telescope to malfunction. Astronauts prepared for an emergency spacewalk; however the panel was released by orders from Earth. Webb, which will launch from South America on a European Ariane rocket, will not be approachable by astronauts when it arrives at its 1 million-mile (1.6-million-kilometer) destination. Webb, which is larger and more complex than Hubble, will be destroyed if its foldout mirror as well as sunshield snarls.


17:10 PM IST – The Ariane-5 rocket has been fully fuelled and is ready for launch.

Ariane-5 upper as well as second stage fueling commenced earlier today and was finished today. The rocket is ready for launch, although ground controllers are keeping an eye on the weather.

17:14 PM IST – In six months, the first image from the James Webb Telescope will be released.

After reaching its intended orbit almost 15,00,000 kilometers away from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope will take about six months to make its first scientific observation. The telescope will undergo a six-month commissioning procedure before it can begin surveying the universe.

17:17 PM IST – Infrared vision vs. James Webb vs. Hubble Telescope

Hubble detects visible light, with a bit ultraviolet as well as infrared thrown in for good measure. Webb has infrared eyesight, which allows it to see through cosmic dust clouds. The initial stars and galaxies’ shorter visible and ultraviolet wavelengths have been extended as the universe expands, so Webb would observe them in their stretched, heat-emitting infrared version. Webb’s detectors must operate at minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit for this reason (minus 240 degrees Celsius).

17:21 PM IST – Ariane Space CEO: “We are launching for mankind.”

“We’re launching for mankind, and once the James Webb Telescope is launched into orbit, the sky will never be the same,” says Ariane Space CEO.

17:24 PM IST – Size Comparison: James Webb vs. Hubble Telescope

Webb will need the biggest mirror ever deployed for astronomy to detect the universe’s early, dim stars. The mirror is more than 21 feet (6.5 meters) in length yet is lighter than Hubble’s, which measures 8 feet (2.4 meters). Webb’s mirror is composed of beryllium, which is a powerful but light metal. It’s also split, so it can be folded into a drop-leaf table for transport. Each of the 18 hexagonal pieces is the equivalent to a coffee table and is coated in ultra-thin gold, making it a perfect infrared light reflector.

17:34 PM IST – James Webb Space Telescope’s orbit

The James Webb Space Telescope will not orbit the Earth in the same manner as the Hubble Space Telescope does; instead, it will orbit the Sun 1.5 million kilometres (1 million miles) distant from the Earth at the second Lagrange point, or L2.


All indicators point to a successful launch of the Ariane-5 rocket, which will carry the James Webb Space Telescope.

17:41 PM IST – The weather forecast appears to be favorable.

The weather forecast predicts that the launch of Ariane-5 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana will go off without a hitch.

17:51 PM IST – The James Webb Telescope is launched into space.

The James Webb Telescope is launched into orbit by Nasa and the European Space Agency, ushering in a new age of astronomy.

17:53 PM IST – Normal telemetry

Telemetry is a common occurrence. Everything appears to be in order. Separation of solid rocket boosters

18:00 PM IST – Separation of the James Webb Telescope and the Space Launch System

The main stage of the Ariane-5 rocket has shut down, separating the James Webb Space Telescope from it. For the European Space Agency, the launch went off without a hitch.

The first glimpse of the James Webb Space Telescope during the launch

18:18 PM IST – The James Webb Telescope makes its first trip into orbit.

Go Webb: The James Webb Space Telescope now entirely split from the Ariane-5 rocket, ushering in a new age of astronomy.


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