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Canada's contribution to NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

Published by Rob on Mon Jun 4, 2007 3:26 pm
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Longueuil, Quebec, June 4, 2007 – Gary Goodyear, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, on behalf of the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), today announced the award of a $39-million contract to COM DEV for the building of the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and the Tuneable Filter Imager (TFI) camera for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The FGS is a critical instrument that will locate stars to high precision and keep the telescope pointed accurately while it works. TFI will provide a unique infrared imaging capability for JWST.

As a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the CSA, this space telescope will be the largest ever built. Managing Canada’s participation, the Canadian Space Agency plays a pivotal role as the funding agency and project coordinator in Canada. This contribution will also guarantee Canadian scientists access to all data and allow them to formulate requests for a minimum of 5% of the time on the space telescope for studies that would best serve their research.

“Our newly released Science and Technology Strategy – Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage – recognizes the importance of doing more to turn ideas into innovations that provide solutions to our environmental, health and other important challenges, and to improve Canada’s economic competitiveness,” said Gary Goodyear. “The space industry plays a key role within Canada’s science and technology sector, and space ventures such as the James Webb Space Telescope bring challenges so demanding and so complex that they constantly push industrial and technological standards to the limit,” he added.

The Fine Guidance Sensor supplied by COM DEV is essential to the success of the mission. It will track the positions of guide stars with great accuracy to keep the telescope pointed precisely while its instruments make scientific measurements. The level of precision required will be the equivalent of focusing on an object the size of a dime at a distance of 1000 km away.

Dr. John Hutchings of the National Research Council’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics is the Canadian project scientist. Dr. René Doyon of the Université de Montréal leads the TFI science team composed of scientists from across the country in planning the instrument function, calibrations, and early science investigations. Canadian scientists are also members of the U.S. and European teams producing two of the other instruments.

Once launched in 2013, JWST will peer into the past, looking farther than has ever been possible, and deep into interstellar dust clouds where stars and planets are formed. It will observe the formation of the first stars and galaxies of the universe and the origins of solar systems like our own. JWST will be stationed 1.5 million kilometres from Earth to ensure a stable and cold environment and reduce problems with stray light.

For more information, please visit the following links: Fact sheet and Backgrounder.

About the Canadian Space Agency

Established in 1989, the CSA coordinates all civil space-related policies and programs on behalf of the Government of Canada. The CSA directs its resources and activities through four key thrusts: Earth Observation, Space Science and Exploration, Satellite Communications, and Space Awareness and Learning. By leveraging international cooperation, the CSA generates world-class scientific research and industrial development for the benefit of humanity.

For more information, please visit the Agency’s Web site: www.space.gc.ca

About the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics

The National Research Council’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics 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, B.C. and supports several space astronomy missions through funding from the Canadian Space Agency.

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