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Europe's Contributions to the JWST Mission

Europe's Contributions to the JWST Mission

Since 1996 ESA and NASA, along with the Canadian Space Agency, have collaborated on designing and constructing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), widely considered as a follow-up mission to the hugely successful Hubble Space Telescope.

ESA's participation in the JWST mission was formally approved by the ESA Science Programme Committee in 2003. The four major European contributions to the mission are formalised in the Memorandum of Understanding on JWST signed by NASA and ESA in 2007. These contributions are:

  • provision of the NIRSpec instrument;
  • provision of the Optical Bench Assembly of the MIRI instrument through special funding from the ESA Member States;
  • provision of the Ariane 5 ECA launcher;
  • provision of staff to support mission operations at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, USA.

In return for these contributions, ESA gains full partnership in JWST and secures full access to the JWST observatory for astronomers from ESA Member States on identical terms to those of today on the Hubble Space Telescope. European scientists will be represented on all advisory bodies of the project and will be expected to win observing time on JWST through a joint peer review process, backed by an expectation of a minimum ESA share of 15% of the total JWST observing time.


Diagram showing the main elements of the JWST mission, with the contributions of ESA and Europe highlighted in pink. Credit: ESA


Last Update: 21 May 2020
6-May-2021 14:54 UT

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