Ariane 5 lifts final payload before NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope flight

Last night Arianespace launched their 111th Ariane 5 mission to space carrying satellites for SES and the French military. This marked its final flight of the Ariane 5 before it launches NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in December.

The launch of flight VA255 took place at 10:10 p.m. EDT on October 23 from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. The payload was two communications satellites, one for telecommunications company SES and the other for the French military. Both payloads went to geostationary Earth orbit and were deployed successfully.

Besides one minor issue that teams resolved, the launch went off without a hitch (which probably made some NASA officials happy leading up to JWST’s launch). The newest telescope is a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. Europe’s contribution is the launch, for which they have mostly covered. For that reason, along with having one of the largest payload fairings, the most powerful telescope will use the Ariane 5 as its ride to space.

James Webb Space Telescope inside processing facility at Guiana Space Center. Credit: NASA

For over a decade, NASA’s Launch Services Program has been an advisor to Arianespace and the ESA for launch preparation and readiness. As a result, NASA has absolute confidence in Arianespace to launch one of the most expensive payloads in recent history to space. A launch that will be next for Arianespace, launching as soon as December 18.

James Webb Space Telescope status

Currently, JWST is at Arianespace’s payload processing facility at the Guiana Space Center. It arrived via boat on October 12 and has since then begun tests to prepare it for launch. NASA stated that teams are working hard and are confident the largest space telescope ever will be ready by its December launch date.

The launch and deployment of the JWST will be one of the most complex and riskiest ever done. The planned orbit puts it past the Moon and will have 300 single-point failure items. If any one of those goes wrong, no mission could be conducted by NASA to save it as they could for Hubble. The journey to peer back further than we have ever seen before begins this December from French Guiana.

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