Science and Exploration

The James Webb Space Telescope Mission: Optical Telescope Element Design, Development, and Performance

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
January 7, 2023
Filed under , , , , ,
The James Webb Space Telescope Mission: Optical Telescope Element Design, Development, and Performance
James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, infrared space telescope that has recently started its science program which will enable breakthroughs in astrophysics and planetary science.

Notably, JWST will provide the very first observations of the earliest luminous objects in the Universe and start a new era of exoplanet atmospheric characterization. This transformative science is enabled by a 6.6 m telescope that is passively cooled with a 5-layer sunshield.

The primary mirror is comprised of 18 controllable, low areal density hexagonal segments, that were aligned and phased relative to each other in orbit using innovative image-based wavefront sensing and control algorithms. This revolutionary telescope took more than two decades to develop with a widely distributed team across engineering disciplines.

We present an overview of the telescope requirements, architecture, development, superb on-orbit performance, and lessons learned. JWST successfully demonstrates a segmented aperture space telescope and establishes a path to building even larger space telescopes.

Michael W. McElwain, Lee D. Feinberg, Marshall D. Perrin, Mark Clampin, C. Matt Mountain, Matthew D. Lallo, Charles-Philippe Lajoie, Randy A. Kimble, Charles W. Bowers, Christopher C. Stark, D. Scott Acton, Ken Aiello, Charles Atkinson, Beth Barinek, Allison Barto, Scott Basinger, Tracy Beck, Matthew D. Bergkoetter, Marcel Bluth, Rene A. Boucarut, Gregory R. Brady, Keira J. Brooks, Bob Brown, John Byard, Larkin Carey, Maria Carrasquilla, Sid Celeste, Dan Chae, David Chaney, Pierre Chayer, Taylor Chonis, Lester Cohen, Helen J. Cole, Thomas M. Comeau, Matthew Coon, Eric Coppock, Laura Coyle, Rick Davis, Bruce H. Dean, Kenneth J. Dziak, Michael Eisenhower, Nicolas Flagey, Randy Franck, Benjamin Gallagher, Larry Gilman, Tiffany Glassman, Gary Golnik, Joseph J. Green, John Grieco, Shari Haase, Theodore J. Hadjimichael, John G. Hagopian, Walter G. Hahn, George F. Hartig, Keith A. Havey, William L. Hayden, Robert Hellekson, Brian Hicks, Sherie T. Holfeltz, Joseph M. Howard, Jesse A. Huguet, Brian Jahne, Leslie A. Johnson, John D. Johnston, Alden S. Jurling, Jeffrey R. Kegley, Scott Kennard, Ritva A. Keski-Kuha, J. Scott Knight, Bernard A. Kulp, Joshua S. Levi, Marie B. Levine, Paul Lightsey, Robert A. Luetgens, John C. Mather, Gary W. Matthews, Andrew G. McKay, Kimberly I. Mehalick, Marcio Meléndez, Ted Messer, Gary E. Mosier, Jess Murphy, Edmund P. Nelan, Malcolm B. Niedner, Darin M. Noël, Catherine M. Ohara, Raymond G. Ohl, Eugene Olczak, Shannon B. Osborne, Sang Park, Kevin Patton, Charles Perrygo, Laurent Pueyo, Lisbeth Quesnel, Dale Ranck, David C. Redding, Michael W. Regan, Paul Reynolds, Rich Rifelli, Jane R. Rigby et al. (29 additional authors not shown)

Comments: accepted by PASP for JWST Overview Special Issue; 34 pages, 25 figures
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:2301.01779 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2301.01779v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
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Submission history
From: Michael McElwain
[v1] Wed, 4 Jan 2023 19:00:01 UTC (19,812 KB)

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.