When it launched last Saturday, its intended orbit was accomplished with such precision that “Webb” used far less fuel than NASA had expected, writing the US space agency today. “The observatory has sufficient fuel to conduct scientific activities in space for well over a decade.”
NASA hoped to use the space telescope for at least five years, which is to succeed the famous Hubble telescope. However, Webb’s life may be shortened later by other factors.
A spacecraft like the Webb must regularly perform small maneuvers, for example to maintain a good orbit around the Earth. The more fuel left after launch, the longer Webb can continue to make these kinds of fixes.
The launch and Webb’s first corrective maneuver shortly thereafter went way beyond expectations. It 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 would take about a month. The first images are expected for the summer. The Hubble is now thirty years old. Webb’s predecessor is expected to be out of orbit and burn in the atmosphere within the next decade.
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