Analysis reveals that the telescope consumed less propellant for the mid-course burns than that which was projected, thereby increasing its life expectancy.
Following the most hyped and successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, or the JWST, into space on Christmas, NASA revealed some welcoming news for the telescope’s future: The JWST could last way beyond the predicted time frame despite it being designed for an operational life of 10 years.
As per NASA, the additional fuel is all thanks to the precision of the Ariane 5 rocket which took the JWST to space. It is also due to the precision of the first and second mid-course correction maneuvers — small trajectory tweaks that the spacecraft has executed since its launch, setting it on a trajectory away from the planet.
According to NASA, the precision of these maneuvers leaves the spacecraft with more fuel that can be used to maintain its final position. However, a number of factors can affect the JWST’s lifespan. The launch trajectory’s accuracy also allowed the JWST to deploy its solar array a tad bit early.
The JWST’s solar array was supposed to be deployed after about 33 minutes from the launch following the separation from the Ariane 5 rocket. Instead, the arrays were deployed about 29 minutes after the launch since the JWST was at the correct position following the separation. The solar array deployment was automatic with contrast to future deployments—which includes the spacecraft’s sunshield and segments of the primary mirror-which will all be operated manually.
The potential extension of the JWST’s lifespan is fairly evocative to that of the Hubble telescope, which is widely considered as the JWST’s predecessor. The Hubble telescope was projected to sustain for about 15 years, but it’s still operating today, about more than 25 years later with the key point being that the Hubble Space Telescope is serviceable whilst the JWST is not.
The JWST, which accumulates infrared light, is capable of conceiving objects 10 to 100 times fainter than what Hubble can perceive.
For live updates: https://webb.nasa.gov/content/webbLaunch/whereIsWebb.html.