- Press Release
- Feb 2, 2023
NASA Announces Contract for Next-Generation Space Telescope Named after Space Pioneer
NASA today selected TRW, Redondo Beach, Calif., to build
a next-generation successor to the Hubble Space Telescope in
honor of the man who led NASA in the early days of the
fledgling aerospace agency.
The space-based observatory will be known as the James Webb
Space Telescope, named after James E. Webb, NASA’s second
administrator. While Webb is best known for leading Apollo
and a series of lunar exploration programs that landed the
first humans on the Moon, he also initiated a vigorous space
science program, responsible for more than 75 launches during
his tenure, including America’s first interplanetary
“It is fitting that Hubble’s successor be named in honor of
James Webb. Thanks to his efforts, we got our first glimpses
at the dramatic landscapes of outer space,” said NASA
Administrator Sean O’Keefe. “He took our nation on its first
voyages of exploration, turning our imagination into reality.
Indeed, he laid the foundations at NASA for one of the most
successful periods of astronomical discovery. As a result,
we’re rewriting the textbooks today with the help of the
Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and, in
2010, the James Webb Telescope.”
The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch in
2010 aboard an expendable launch vehicle. It will take about
three months for the spacecraft to reach its destination, an
orbit 940,000 miles or 1.5 million kilometers in space,
called the second Lagrange Point or L2, where the spacecraft
is balanced between the gravity of the Sun and the Earth.
Unlike Hubble, space shuttle astronauts will not service the
James Webb Space Telescope because it will be too far away.
The most important advantage of this L2 orbit is that a
single-sided sun shield on only one side of the observatory
can protect Webb from the light and heat of both the Sun and
Earth. As a result, the observatory can be cooled to very low
temperatures without the use of complicated refrigeration
equipment. These low temperatures are required to prevent the
Webb’s own heat radiation from exceeding the brightness of
the distant cool astronomical objects.
Before and during launch, the mirror will be folded up. Once
the telescope is placed in its orbit, ground controllers will
send a message telling the telescope to unfold its high-tech
To see into the depths of space, the James Webb Space
Telescope is currently planned to carry instruments that are
sensitive to the infrared wavelengths of the electromagnetic
spectrum. The new telescope will carry a near-infrared
camera, a multi-object spectrometer and a mid-infrared
The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to look deeper
into the universe than Hubble because of the increased light-
collecting power of its larger mirror and the extraordinary
sensitivity of its instruments to infrared light. Webb’s
primary mirror will be at least 20 feet in diameter,
providing much more light gathering capability than Hubble’s
eight-foot primary mirror.
The telescope’s infrared capabilities are required to help
astronomers understand how galaxies first emerged out of the
darkness that followed the rapid expansion and cooling of the
universe just a few hundred million years after the big bang.
The light from the youngest galaxies is seen in the infrared
due to the universe’s expansion.
Looking closer to home, the James Webb Space Telescope will
probe the formation of planets in disks around young stars,
and study supermassive black holes in other galaxies.
Under the terms of the contract valued at $824.8 million, TRW
will design and fabricate the observatory’s primary mirror
and spacecraft. TRW also will be responsible for integrating
the science instrument module into the spacecraft as well as
performing the pre-flight testing and on-orbit checkout of
The Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages the
James Webb Space Telescope for the Office of Space Science at
NASA Headquarters in Washington. The program has a number of
industry, academic and government partners, as well as the
European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
More information on James Webb Space Telescope is available
on the Internet at: