Major elements of the Ariane 5 rocket to launch the James Webb Space Telescope arrived safely in Kourou, French Guiana from Europe on 3 September 2021.
The rocket’s fairing, upper stage and core stage have been unloaded from the MN Toucan vessel at Pariacabo harbour and transported by special convoy to Europe’s Spaceport about 3 km away from the wharf.
Webb will be stowed folded inside the fairing built by RUAG Space in Emmen, Switzerland. This ogive-shaped fairing at the top of Ariane 5 is 5.4 m in diameter and over 17 m high. Made of carbon fibre-polymer composite, this structure will protect Webb from the thermal, acoustic, and aerodynamic stresses at liftoff on the ascent to space.
Ariane 5’s upper stage is built by ArianeGroup in Bremen, Germany. It gives Ariane 5 the flexibility to deploy scientific payloads to a highly precise second Lagrangian injection orbit.
Its HM7B engine burns 14.7 t of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant to deliver 6.6 t of thrust. It provides attitude control during the ascent and the separation of Webb. The Vehicle Equipment Bay, ‘the brain’, autonomously controls the whole vehicle and transmits all key flight parameters to the ground station network.
The cryogenic core stage, built by ArianeGroup in France, is 5.4 m diameter and 30.5 m long and unfuelled weighs more than 14 tonnes. At liftoff, its Vulcain 2 engine burns 175 t of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants to provide 140 t of thrust. It also provides roll control during the main propulsion phase.
At Europe’s Spaceport these Ariane 5 parts will be checked and prepared for assembly and integration before the mating of Webb on its top.
Webb will be the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space. As part of an international collaboration agreement, ESA is providing the telescope’s launch service using the Ariane 5 launch vehicle.
Working with partners, ESA was responsible for the development and qualification of Ariane 5 adaptations for the Webb mission and for the procurement of the launch service by Arianespace.
Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).