The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope has successfully completed its final tests and is being prepared for shipment to its launch site at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Tests were carried out at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in California, USA, to ensure that the complex space science observatory will operate as designed when in space. Shipment operations have now begun, including all the necessary steps to prepare Webb for a safe journey through the Panama Canal to its launch location in French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America.
Once Webb arrives at Europe’s Spaceport, launch processing teams will prepare and configure the observatory for flight. This involves post-shipment checkouts and carefully loading the spacecraft’s propellant tanks with fuel. Then, engineering teams will mate the observatory to its launch vehicle, an Ariane 5 rocket provided by ESA and make a ‘dress rehearsal’, before it rolls out to the launch pad two days before launch.
The upper stage of the Ariane 5, which will carry Webb to space later this year, is already on its way to Europe’s Spaceport. Overnight on 17 August 2021, the upper stage was transported in its container from ArianeGroup in Bremen to Neustadt port in Germany. Here it boarded the MN Toucan vessel alongside other Ariane 5 elements loaded in various European harbours to continue its journey to Kourou, French Guiana.