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Astrium completes major milestone on the James Webb Space Telescope


Ottobrunn. – Astrium has successfully completed the Engineering Test Unit (ETU) for the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec). NIRSpec will be integrated in the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and will peer into the origins of our Universe. NIRSpec is a 100 million euros spectrometer, which is being developed by Astrium in Germany, capable of detecting the faintest radiation from the furthest galaxies. The completion of the ETU marks an important milestone for the JWST, and it will shortly be shipped to the United States where it will undergo testing by NASA.

* Engineering Test Unit for the Near Infrared Spectrograph ready for delivery to NASA
* Astrium responsible for developing the instrument that will study the evolution of stars and galaxies

Along with NASA, both the European (ESA) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies are involved in developing the JWST, which is due to be launched in 2014. The JWST is the successor to the Hubble space telescope and will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first light after the Big Bang to the evolution of planetary systems. This will be made possible by the JWST’s huge primary mirror (which will be six and a half metres wide making it the largest telescope in space) and its suite of four highly sensitive instruments, including the NIRSpec.

Evert Dudok, CEO of Astrium Satellites said: “The completion of the NIRSpec ETU is part of Astrium’s ongoing contribution to the next step in modern astronomy. The JWST is hugely important in expanding our understanding of the Universe’s evolution and Astrium is at the forefront of providing the cutting-edge technology that will ensure this mission becomes a success.”

The NIRSpec, for which Astrium is the prime contractor on behalf of the ESA, will be capable of registering up to a hundred objects, such as galaxies and stars, through various spectral resolutions. This means that the JWST will be able to simultaneously observe large parts of space at unprecedented depths. The NIRSpec will weigh only 200Kg and will operate at temperatures of -238°C as the JWST orbits one million miles (1.5 million km) from Earth.. The flight model of the NIRSpec will be integrated and tested on the JWST from 2011 onwards and will operate for potentially up to ten years once in space.

Along with NIRSpec, Astrium in the UK is involved in the development of another key instrument for the JWST, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). MIRI’s objectives include distinguishing first light objects, studying galaxy evolution and exploring the development of stars.


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