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Canada to build key component of NASA's next giant space telescope

Press Release From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2004

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Ottawa, September 16, 2004 - Canada will build a key component of the gigantic James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to be launched by NASA in August 2011. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently awarded a $5-million contract to Ottawa-based EMS Technologies' Space and Technology Group for the design of the fine guidance sensor, in partnership with COM DEV of Cambridge, Ontario. Northrup Grumman Space Technologies of Los Angeles, California, will build the JWST under NASA supervision at an estimated cost of US$1.5 billion.

"This major new observatory will take over where Hubble, Spitzer, and other space telescopes leave off," said Dr. Virendra Jha, CSA Vice-President of Science, Technologies and Programs. "It is being designed by teams in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. JWST will open new windows on the first stars and quasars in the early universe, as well as star and planet formation in nearby galaxies. JWST is uniquely designed for these investigations."

"Our instrument, the fine guidance sensor, is critical to the success of the mission. It will measure the positions of very faint stars to extremely high accuracy. This is necessary for JWST to achieve the high quality of images required by the scientific objectives," added Mr. Alan Haase, Senior Vice-President and General Manager of EMS Technologies' Space and Technology Group. "We are also including a tunable filter camera that will provide unique scientific capabilities."

NRC's Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA) has played a key role in this scientific mission, working with CSA and its contractors to establish the Canadian contribution and helping with early design work. The Canadian project scientist, Dr. John Hutchings of HIA, also leads a team of scientists from across the country in planning the instrument function, calibrations and early science investigations. Canada has guaranteed science time on JWST as a partner in the project. Canadian scientists are also members of the U.S. and European teams producing two of the other instruments.

"When launched in 2011, JWST will peer into the past to greater distances than ever before," says Dr. Hutchings. "With it, we will be able to observe the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the universe, close to the beginning of time."

With an aperture diameter of 6.5 m, the surface area of JWST's main mirror will be seven times larger than Hubble's, and hundreds of times more sensitive than any other telescope. Its five-layer sunshield-almost as large as a tennis court-will keep the instruments at 37 degrees above absolute zero and will allow the telescope to detect faint, red-shifted signals from the early stages of the universe. The JWST will be stationed 1.5 million km from Earth at the Second Lagrangian Point (L2). This location lies beyond the Earth's orbit, thus the bright Earth is never seen by JWST; this reduces problems with stray light.

About the Canadian Space Agency

Established in 1989 and with its headquarters situated in Longueuil, Quebec, the Canadian Space Agency is responsible for coordinating all civil, space-related policies and programs related to science and technology research, industrial development, and international cooperation on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Canadian Space Agency directs its resources and activities through four key thrusts: Earth Observation, Space Science and Exploration, Satellite Communications, and Space Awareness and Learning. With the overall responsibility for advancing Canada's space policy and programs, the Canadian Space Agency leverages international cooperation to champion world-class scientific research and industrial development for the benefit of humanity.

About EMS Technologies

EMS Technologies is a leading innovator in the design and manufacture of space payloads and instruments. The Ottawa-based company also has a major manufacturing facility in MontrČal.

About the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics

The Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (NRC-HIA) provides first-class telescopes and instruments for astronomy to the Canadian research community. It participates in four major international observatories in Hawaii and Chile, operates telescopes in Victoria and Penticton, BC and supports several space astronomy missions through funding from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

For more detailed information, please consult the attached backgrounder or the James Webb Space Telescope Web page.

For more information, please contact:

Carole Duval
Communications Advisor
Media Relations and Information Services
Canadian Space Agency
Tel.: (450) 926-4972
E-mail: carole.duval@space.gc.ca

Dr. John Hutchings, Principal Research Officer
Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
National Research Council of Canada
Tel.: (250) 363-0018
E-mail: John.Hutchings@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Graeme Maag
Director, Public Affairs
EMS Technologies
Tel.: (514) 425-3079
E-mail: maag.g@ems-t.ca

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