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Christmas Day Webb telescope launch

Webb’s sunshield, a five-layer, diamond-shaped structure the size of a tennis court, was specially engineered to fold up and fit within the confines of Ariane 5. – all illustrations ESA ©

ESA reported on Christmas Day that the James Webb Space Telescope had lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 1320 CET (GMT + 1) its mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. Following launch and separation from the rocket, Webb’s mission operations centre in Baltimore, USA confirmed Webb deployed its solar array and is in good condition, marking the launch a success.

Incidentally, the telescope’s sunshield measures 21 metres by 14 metres. Stowed inside the rocket for launch, the folded sunshield was packaged in a confined area to accommodate the limited space inside the 5.4-metre diameter rocket fairing which protected Webb during lift-off and on its journey through the atmosphere.

In the coming month, Webb, an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will travel to its destination: the second Lagrange point (L2), where it will study the Universe in infrared.