When launched last Saturday, its intended orbit was accomplished with such precision that Webb used far less fuel than NASA had planned. He writes US space agency today. “The observatory has enough fuel to conduct science in space for much longer than a decade.”
NASA hopes to use the space telescope for at least five years, to replace the famous Hubble telescope. However, Webb’s life may be shortened later due to other factors.
A spacecraft like Webb must regularly perform small maneuvers, for example to maintain a good orbit around the Earth. The more fuel left after launch, the more Webb can keep making these kinds of corrections.
Both the initial launch and debug maneuver that Webb performed shortly thereafter far exceeded expectations. This also allowed the telescope to deploy its solar cells earlier than expected.
The Webb telescope is now on its way to its final destination, a process that could take about a month. The first pictures are expected in the summer. Hubble is now thirty years old. Webb’s ancestor is expected to be out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere in the next decade.
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