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The James Webb Space Telescope Model

Photo of the full scale James Webb space telescope model at Northrop Grumman.

Image above: Photo of a full scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope at the National Space Symposium. Credit: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman is displaying a full scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) at the 21st National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. More than 6,500 space professionals from around the world are expected to participate. The model, which took more than two days to assemble, is positioned in the static display area for all to see. Northrop Grumman officials say that the model was built to show the complexity of the undertaking involved in building this next generation telescope.

In 2002, Northrop Grumman Space Technology was selected as the prime contractor to the develop JWST. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the JWST project, and the Space Telescope Science Institute is responsible for JWST science and mission operations, as well as ground station development.

Currently scheduled for launch in 2011, JWST will begin performing its science mission approximately 6 months after launch.  JWST will take its place in space approximately 930,000 miles beyond Earth’s orbit (nearly four times the distance from the Earth to the moon), where the temperature is very stable. The James Webb Space Telescope, previously called the Next Generation Space Telescope, was renamed in late 2002 in honor of the famed NASA administrator from the Apollo era.

More Information about the JWST Model
Q. Why did you build this model?
A. JWST is an extremely important program; it will build on the discoveries of earlier space telescopes and open doors to new understanding of the Universe. It also incorporates many new innovations and technologies, so we created the model to show the scale and complexity involved in building JWST.

Q. How big is this model?
A. The model is 80 feet long, 38 feet wide and 38 feet tall. It weighs 10,000 pounds.

Q. What is it comparable to in size?
A. The sunshade itself is the size of a tennis court.

Q. What is it made from?
A. The model is made from several materials, including aluminum and steel. The base is steel; the satellite structure is aluminum; the sunshield is made from Ferrari pre constraint, a very tough material now being used in building construction.

Q. How do you ship it?
A. We brought it to Colorado by truck trailer.



Still from animation showing the birth of stars.
Still from an animation showing a supernova.
Still from animation showing proto galaxies forming.
Still from animation showing the James Webb Space Telescope being deployed.

Image/animation upper left: Birth of the Very First Stars - Primordial matter in the early universe consisted of just hydrogen and helium gas. These gas clouds were the seeds of future clouds, stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies that populated the universe. Under the action of its own gravity, the gas in one of these dense knots starts falling toward its center. Attracted by the stellar seed, more material starts falling, forming a swirling disk of gas. The disk collects the falling gas and funnels it onto the surface of the growing star. Eventually, the temperature at the center of the star becomes so high that hydrogen atoms can effectively merge together to form helium, releasing large amounts of energy (light and heat). In just a few million years these stars consume all their nuclear fuel and end their lives in catastrophic supernova explosions, leaving a black hole behind. These explosions eject a large quantity of gas that has been enriched in heavier elements, such as carbon, oxygen, and silicon and are elements that are essential for the formation of Earth-like planets and, eventually, the birth of life on them. Click on image to view animation (no audio--3.7 MB). Credit: NASA

Image/animation upper right: Supernova and Exploding Starfield - Clouds of gas and stars are swirling together, forming the basis of proto-galaxies. At the center of a proto-galaxy so much gas, stars, black holes and other stellar remnants clump together that a massive black hole starts to form. The central massive black will accrete most of its surrounding material falling in, but a small fraction is ejected along two very energetic jets. If one of these energy beams is pointed at us, we may be seeing it as a quasar. Quasars will be among the furthest objects JWST will be able to see, and astronomers will be able to study all intervening gas clouds against these background light beacons. Click on image to view animation (no audio--4.8 MB). Credit: NASA

Image/animation lower left: The Building Blocks of the Universe- Many proto-galaxies are forming, drawn together by their mutual gravitational attraction. They start to collide and merge together, building larger and larger galaxies. Disk like spiral galaxies will form if the inflow of material is smooth and consists mainly of gas, rounder elliptical galaxies will form if the collisions are more violent and head-on. JWST will look past all these foreground galaxies, looking deep into space and back in time, to find the earliest star formation, galaxy formation and quasars. Click on image to view animation (no audio--5 MB). Credit: NASA

Image/animation lower right JWST Spacecraft Animation - JWST is designed to make observations in the far visible to the mid-infrared part of the spectrum. This wavelength coverage is different from that of the HST, which covers the range from the ultraviolet to the near-infrared. JWST will have a primary mirror diameter more than twice as large as HST giving it much more light gathering capability. JWST will also operate much farther from Earth giving it much simplified operations and pointing requirements compared with HST. Click on image to view animation (no audio--18.3 MB). Credit: Northrop Grumman

Deanna Kekesi
Goddard Space Flight Center