The James Webb Space Telescope built by a Northrop Grumman-led industry team for NASA lifted off Saturday aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Space Agency’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The telescope separated from the rocket about 30 minutes after launch to mark the start of a two-week deployment process to prepare for its arrival at Lagrange Point 2, Northrop said Saturday.
Kathy Warden, chairman, president and CEO of Northrop and a six-time Wash100 Award winner, said the Webb telescope will turn into a scientific tool in the next few weeks to begin a “new era in human discovery.”
Webb is NASA’s joint effort with ESA and the Canadian Space Agency and is designed to explore the solar system and exoplanets and detect light from the first galaxies.
Following its release at an altitude of about 870 miles, NASA said the Webb observatory unfolded its solar array to provide power to the telescope.
Mission operators will use the Malindi ground station in Kenya to establish a communications link with the telescope. Ground controllers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will transmit the first commands to the observatory.
Ground controllers and engineers will then perform the first of three midcourse correction burns by firing the telescope’s thrusters to guide Webb toward its destination.
The observatory will kick off its commissioning over a six-month period. After the commissioning process, Webb will capture and deliver initial images using instruments equipped with infrared detectors.