Airbus Defence and Space

Exploring the universe All programmes

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): NIRSpec and MIRI

Scheduled for launch from 2018 aboard an Ariane 5, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the successor to Hubble (launched in 1990), which is currently operational, providing spectacular results and images from the earliest phases of our universe.

Airbus Defence and Space’s predecessor companies supplied Hubble’s Faint Object Camera (FOC), which operated perfectly on board Hubble until 1997 – the only remaining first-generation instrument.

The ‘final’ size of this new universal telescope, covering the visible to mid-infrared range, greatly exceeds the loading dimensions of all existing launchers. The telescope with its 6.5 metre, 18-segment primary mirror and tennis-court-sized sunshield will therefore only be deployed in orbit.

In order to examine the history of the origins of our universe, JWST is equipped with four instruments: Airbus Defence and Space’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec); a Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCAM) developed by University of Arizona; a Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) – a collaborative project between the Joint Propulsion Laboratory and ESA leading a consortium of European institutes with project management support provided by Airbus Defence and Space UK; and a Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) provided by the Canadian Space Agency.

The European Space Agency awarded Airbus Defence and Space the contract to build the NIRSpec ‘super-eye’ for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in August 2004. This 200kg spectrograph will be able to detect the faintest radiation from the most distant galaxies and measure spectra of more than 100 objects simultaneously. In order to do this, the instrument must be able to operate at a temperature of –238° C. Airbus Defence and Space is currently developing the instrument in Friedrichshafen and Ottobrunn, Germany.

MIRI, the Mid-InfraRed Instrument is built within a joint venture between a European consortium and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Airbus Defence and Space UK is leading the European scientific community in delivering its part of the MIRI instrument by providing the 10-nation European consortium with project and systems engineering management and product assurance expertise.

Space ExplorationJWST