Observatory that will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe will carry instrumentation co-developed by our University

An observatory that will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy, is one step closer to launch.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will carry instrumentation co-developed by our University in order to peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System.

JWST’s instruments include the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) – a UK-led instrument - that will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. 

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) now begins what will be its final set of tests. JWST has made the journey from the NASA Johnson Space Center in Texas where it has been for the last nine months undergoing extensive cryogenic testing, to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS), California, where it will remain until it is ready for launch in mid-2019.

Jon Sykes, senior mechanical engineer in the University's Space Research Centre, and European lead for the overall MIRI mechanical engineering systems, said: “I’m really looking forward to being in the USA for the critical vibration tests to be performed towards the end of this year; these will confirm that the whole JWST observatory can withstand the vibration loads that it will experience during the launch on the ESA Ariane-V rocket”.

Dr John Pye, Manager of the University's Space Research Centre, and lead staff member for the JWST-MIRI project at the University, said: “The team here at the University is very excited that JWST is now starting the final preparation phases heading to launch next year.”

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