Subscribe to Canada Free Press for FREE

James Webb Space Telescope, SpaceWire technology

James Webb get’s a Speed Boost

By Joshua Hill —— Bio and Archives--November 14, 2007

Comments | Print Friendly | Subscribe | Email Us

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is in line to launch 2013, and become the new era of space telescope. The warhorse of the skies—Hubble—has been patrolling the skies since 1990, and is due for a rest. James Webb will become the new darling of space exploration, and to help it do its job, it has received a broadband boost in speed.

Engineers at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, took SpaceWire, originally developed by the European Space Agency, and made it easier to be implemented in to space missions. The low-power microchip works at over 200 megabits a second, allowing for faster data communication between JWST’s four main science instruments.

What does all of that mean?

It means that the images captured by James Webb will be larger and of a higher resolution than ever before.

“It makes the scientists happy, and makes the observatory more efficient because it can cover a large swath of sky faster,” said Pam Sullivan, manager of the JWST Integrated Science Instrument Module.

Essentially, JWST is just a giant digital camera, converting what it sees on the light spectrum in to digital images. Of course, the telescope is much bigger, and needs a much more expensive sensor than your average digital camera though. Needless to say, there is really no comparison in terms of quality between a digital camera image and one that will be produced by the JWST.

The JWST will be running with 66 million detector pixels, which just means a larger sensor. But with a larger sensor count, you need a faster way to communicate that data. That is where the SpaceWire comes in, allowing that fast communication.

The SpaceWire technology will be available to other space missions soon, and is already being used by missions such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R. NASA research centers that are already using SpaceWire in technology development include the NASA Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, OH, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA., and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.

James Webb is the next step for NASA, along with their partners from the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. But because the JWST is so large it cannot fit on to the rocket, without being folded.

“To see all the way to the edge of the universe, you need larger telescopes,” said Sullivan.


Joshua Hill, a Geek’s-Geek from Melbourne, Australia, Josh is an aspiring author with dreams of publishing his epic fantasy, currently in the works, sometime in the next 5 years. A techie, nerd, sci-fi nut and bookworm.

Guest Column Joshua Hill -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Items of notes and interest from the web.

Commenting Policy

Please adhere to our commenting policy to avoid being banned. As a privately owned website, we reserve the right to remove any comment and ban any user at any time.

Comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal or abusive attacks on other users may be removed and result in a ban.
-- Follow these instructions on registering: