Airbus Defence and Space

Exploring the universe Press releases

Space telescope James Webb exhibited in Munich

Munich, 13 October 2008 – The European space company Airbus Defence and Space, its American partner Northrop Grumman and the Deutsches Museum (German Museum) are exhibiting a full-scale model of the giant scientific satellite – James Webb Space Telescope JWST. The occasion behind the exhibit is a workshop for space experts from around the world to discuss the progress being made in the construction of the JWST.

  • More powerful than Hubble, James Webb will peer into the depths of the universe from 2013
  • Airbus Defence and Space, European industrial partner on the project
  • Airbus Defence and Space exhibits the tennis-court-sized satellite (when deployed) at the Deutsches Museum

The James Webb Space Telescope is a collaborative development project between the American (NASA), Canadian (CSA) and European (ESA) space agencies, and is due to be launched in 2013.

Airbus Defence and Space is involved in the build and development of two of the four scientific instruments for the space observatory.

The Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), a 200-kilogramme spectrometer capable of detecting the faintest infrared light, is being built in Germany. It can register up to a hundred objects simultaneously in the spectra, which will prolong the scientists’ observation period a hundredfold.

“Airbus Defence and Space is the industrial partner for Europe’s contribution to this latest-generation space telescope. We are equipping scientists with the best possible instruments, thus laying the foundations for outstanding research. NIRSpec must weigh as little as possible, must work at minus 238° Celsius, and must not fail. These are the very demanding requirements our engineers are having to meet,” Airbus Defence and Space CEO Evert Dudok told journalists in Munich. NIRSpec thus represents a new class of space-based spectrographs.

The Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) is currently being developed by a European consortium of 21 institutes from 10 ESA member states as well as 2 NASA facilities. Airbus Defence and Space engineers at the Stevenage site provide the project and systems engineering management plus product assurance expertise to the 10-nation European consortium.

The JWST represents a quantum leap for scientists seeking the origins of our universe, as it will be able to see much further into space than its predecessor, the Hubble space telescope. Because the light coming from these distant realms of outer space takes several billion years to reach the Earth, JWST will literally be looking back in time. This is made possible in the first instance by the new telescope’s significantly larger primary mirror, comprised of 18 individual hexagonal segments; these will only be unfolded in space. Secondly, the instruments on board the JWST are much more sensitive than those on the Hubble telescope.

The full-scale JWST model has already crossed the Atlantic several times. In addition to Seattle, Orlando, Washington and Montreal, it has also been on display in Paris and Dublin. It took four days to set up the model in Munich. The workshop behind this display was initiated by NASA and attended by all the partners involved the JWST project. These workshops are held at regular intervals, each time in a different place. This year, Airbus Defence and Space is the host and is teaming up with the Deutsches Museum to bring the JWST mission closer to the general public.

The JWST model will be on display 24 hours a day at the Deutsches Museum which, together with Airbus Defence and Space, will be organising a variety of related activities during the two-week exhibition. For example schoolchildren will be given a general introduction to astronomy and the missions of the space telescope. There will also be a lecture on the technological and scientific challenges of the project by John C. Mather, senior project scientist for the JWST, Nobel Prize winner and member of NASA. Another highlight will be the Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums) on 25 October, when experts from Airbus Defence and Space GmbH will be on hand at the display to talk to interested visitors.

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2007, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €3.5 billion and 12,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment and its wholly owned subsidiary Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2007, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116, 000.

Media contacts:

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR) Phone: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK) Phone: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872

Mathias Pikelj (Airbus Defence and Space GER) Phone: +49 (0) 7545 89123

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP) Phone: +34 91 586 37 41


Deutsches Museum, Munich

Bernhard Weidemann Phone: +49 (0) 89 2179 281

Space ExplorationJWSTSpace Telescope