[Update: Launch date annouced] Upper stage of Ariane 5 rocket for James Webb Space Telescope launch arrives in French Guiana

Ariane 5 upper stage being offloaded in French Guiana for James Webb Space Telescope launch.

Last Friday, cargo ship MN Toucan arrived in French Guiana carrying the upper stage and fairing of the Ariane 5 rocket that will launch the James Webb Space Telescope later this year.

The upper stage was loaded onto MN Toucan in the German port Neustädter Hafen in Bremen in mid to late August before making the over 4,000 mile journey to Kourou in French Guiana.

The James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope is a joint project between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency to take over the role of the Hubble Space Telescope. The next-generation telescope will measure a lower wavelength of light allowing it to capture light from more distant objects than the Hubble is capable of while making use of a much larger array of mirrors to capture more light.

Unlike the Hubble, which is in orbit around the Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope will be in orbit around the Sun around Lagrange point L2. This will allow the telescope to remain constantly visible from Earth while its orientation and heat shield can keep the mirrors and scientific instruments cold.

Testing of the James Webb Space Telescope completed in August. Teams are currently preparing the telescope for transportation to the launch site. These preparations are expected to be completed this month.

Ariane 5 rocket

The Ariane 5 rocket is a heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by Arianespace. It will launch the James Webb Space Telescope from the Guiana Space Centre sometime later this year. Ariane 5 has a long history of successful launches starting in the late 1990’s with 105 successful launches.

The RUAG Space design was changed to support the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, and these changes were previously tested with the launch of three commercial payloads.

Update: Boat also carried Core Stage

In a post earlier today, the European Space Agency confirmed MN Toucan carried the core stage of the Ariane 5 rocket in addition to the upper stage and fairing.

James Webb Space Telescope launching in December

NASA announced today that they are targeting a launch date of December 18th, 2021. This launch date was worked out between NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and Arianespace. The teams are currently preparing to ship the telescope to French Guiana to join the major elements of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Featured image credit ESA / Arianespace

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