NASA’s newest space telescope, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to have enough fuel that can power the observatory equipment for over 10 years.
JWST was launched into space during Christmas, Dec. 25th and it’s a US$9 billion-worth collaboration with both the Canadian and European Space agencies while being led by NASA.
The space satellite is supposed to be the folow-up to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope which has spent about 30 years in space before being decommissioned.
JWST is designed to focus on infrared light which will allow astronomers to look at earliest days of the universe.
However, despite the huge bucks spent on the project and the hype all around the project, the device is expected to last for just five years.
But now, NASA belive that JWST has enough capability to work for about 10 years.
“The Webb team has analyzed its initial trajectory and determined the observatory should have enough propellant to allow support of science operations in orbit for significantly more than a 10-year science lifetime,” NASA officials wrote in a statement posted Wednesday (Dec. 29).” For comparison, the Hubble Space Telescope has lasted more than 30 years.
“Incredible news! Congratulations to the team!” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, wrote in a tweet also posted Wednesday.
“The extra propellant is largely due to the precision of the @Arianespace Ariane 5 launch, which exceeded the requirements needed to put @NASAWebb on the right path, as well as the precision of the first mid-course correction maneuver.”
Although confident, NASA still can’t nail the exact estimate of how long the observatory device will last in space.
“The analysis shows that less propellant than originally planned for is needed to correct Webb’s trajectory toward its final orbit,” officials wrote in the statement.
“Consequently, Webb will have much more than the baseline estimate of propellant — though many factors could ultimately affect Webb’s duration of the operation.”
So far, JWST has completed two of the three burns required to see it to its final destination from where it’ll commence operation.
The final burn is expected to take place nearly a month after launch and will mark the last step in the observatory’s delicate deployment process.
The first maneuver occurred on Saturday after launch, with the second taking place Monday (Dec. 27).
The actual destination of JWST is at a orbit in space known as the second Earth-sun Lagrange point, or L2.
The distance is estimated to be about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth in the direction opposite of the Sun.
From this location, JWST will be less vulnerable to solar radiation that can affect its infrared observation.
Lagrange points are sometimes nicknamed “parking” spots for spacecraft, because they mark locations where the gravitational tugs of different celestial bodies are evened out.
Throughout its stay at the L2, JWST is expected to conduct occasional small thruster burns for “station keeping” as well as “momentum management” in order to retain its proper location and orientation.
This is what the propellant after the third burn is meant to be used for. Also, the JWST will have more fuel left in its tank than NASA had anticipated.
The initial launch will precisely target the observatory’s desired trajectory, which will in turn give the spacecraft the much-needed time and fuel on it first two correction maneuvers.