NASA Reveals Plans for Successor to James-Webb Telescope Successor!

Just a few months after commissioning the James-Webb Telescope in the spring of 2022, NASA has released initial information about the successor to the successor to the JWST. will be theObservatory of habitable worlds, a telescope that meets several of the recommendations of the US National Research Council in its latest ten-year report, theDecadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020, which identifies priorities in the field of astronomy and astrophysics for the next decade.

on 241and meeting ofAmerican Astronomical Society held in Seattle on January 9, NASA gave a first glimpse of the future large observatory that could succeed the roman space telescopemainly devoted to the study of dark matterdark matter It’s fromenergyenergy dark that will happen JWSTNameJWSTName until 2027. As for his successor, he is known by the provisional name of ” Observatory of habitable worlds “.

This large observatory will be equipped with a mirrormirror six to eight meters to see in the visible, theultravioletultraviolet and theinfra-redinfra-redand able to discover exoplanetsexoplanets habitats and signs of life in them – from at least 25 nearby Earth-like ones, the minimum needed to statistically confirm whether life is common in the galaxy. Technically, the telescope at this observatory should be very stable, incompatible with the James-Webb Telescope (JWST).

The Legacy of James-Webb and the Roman Space Telescope

Unsurprisingly, NASA doesn’t want the constructionconstruction This future observatory is unfolding like that of the JWST, which ran over deadlines and its initial budget, finally settling at around 10 billion dollars with repercussions on several programs. That said, it is expected that the development ofObservatory of habitable worlds (HWO) is much better mastered than that of JWST because it will start on a much more technological basis solidsolid than those of the JWST, capitalizing on the pioneering segmented mirror of the JWST, as well as the powerful coronagraph that will fly in the roman space telescope. The development of this observatory will also take advantage of the design studies of several large space observatories such as Luvoir or Habex, for example, from which it will assume certain characteristics.

Technically, several difficult points have already been identified, such as the stability of its segmented mirror, whose alignment must be precise to a picometer, that is, a precision of a thousandth of a billionth of a meter – compared to billionths of a meter for the JWST. As for your coronagraph, it should also be more efficient than that of the roman space telescope with the power to block the clearclear on one StarStar 10 billion times brighter than a planet, versus the ability to block starlight “only” 100 million times brighter than its planet to the roman space telescope. These impressive performances are the condition sine qua non to detect signs of life on Earth-like planets.

This observatory will be installed at point L2, where the JWST is currently located. But unlike its neighbor, various service and maintenance missions are planned forObservatory of habitable worlds, which could allow it to operate for several decades and improve in these missions. Like a terrestrial telescope, the mirrors and structure will remain unchanged while the instruments will be replaced with more efficient or different ones. The other advantage of these missions is that they offer a certain amount of flexibility in the sense that NASA will not necessarily be forced to achieve all of the science objectives during the initial mission, which could reduce program costs. .

Maintenance and service missions to extend its lifespan

To understand this choice, which, however, brings constraints to the architecture of the observatory, NASA explains it by the exceptional longevity of the Hubble Space TelescopeHubble Space Telescope which has been salvaged and fitted with new instruments during five manned service missions – the last in 2009. A sixth mission is under consideration and could be flown by SpaceXSpaceX in the program polarispolaris. If NASA does not envisage a manned mission to the HWO at this stage, there is little doubt that within two decades companies will be able to carry out missions roboticsrobotics maintenance at point L2 which, it is worth remembering, is located 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

Finally, the work of the engineers who will design this future observatory will be facilitated by the future launchers planned for 2040, which will be capable of launching much larger and wider satellites than the current ones. This approach should make it possible to significantly reduce constraints in terms of size and pastapasta imposed on the HWO and consider a six to eight meter monolithic mirror. These two constraints are one of the reasons that explain the delays in development and the additional costs of the JWST program: its mirror and its solar shield had to be housed in the fairing of the Ariane 5 that offered a volumevolume only 4.5 meters wide! Hence this segmented mirror with over 300 potential points of failure when commissioned.

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