powderpastthegenitals asked: I had no idea the JEST was that big. How do they plan on getting it into orbit? Does NASA have a new rocket in the works?
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is big, but that picture is in its fully deployed configuration. The current projected vehicle mass is 6,200 kg, which could fit on some current launch vehicles.
In 2007, the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for participation in the JWST mission. The four major European contributions are:
- provision of the NIRSpec instrument;
- provision of the Optical Bench Assembly of the MIRI instrument through special funding from the ESA member states;
- provision of the Ariane-5 ECA launcher;
- manpower support to JWST operations.
In return for these contributions, ESA gains full partnership in JWST and secures full access to the JWST observatory for astronomers from Member States on identical terms to those of today on the Hubble Space Telescope.
So it is supposed to fly on an Ariane 5 ECA (Evolution Cryotechnique type A) launch vehicle, launching from Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. Here is more information on the launcher:
The Ariane 5 ECA (Evolution Cryotechnique type A) has a GTO launch capacity of 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) for dual payloads or 10,500 kg (23,000 lb) for a single payload. This variant uses a new Vulcain 2 first-stage engine, and an ESC-A (Etage Supérieur Cryogénique-A) second stage, powered by an HM-7B engine, weighing 2,100 kg (4,600 lb) and carrying 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) of cryogenic propellant. The second stage uses the liquid oxygen tank and lower structure from the Ariane 4’s H10 third stage, mated to a new liquid hydrogen tank. The revised Vulcain has a longer, more efficient nozzle with more efficient flow cycle and denser propellant ratio. The new ratio demanded length modifications to the first-stage tanks. Also, the solid EAP casings have been lightened with new welds, and packed with more propellant. The ESC-A cryogenic second stage does not improve the performance to Low Earth orbit compared to Ariane 5G, and for this reason the Ariane 5 ECA will not be used to launch the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).
Here is the JWST in its fully stowed configuration within the Ariane faring: