CNES will be contributing to the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to be launched by Ariane in 2011.
On 19 February 2004, the CNES Board of Directors decided to give technical and financial support to the CNRS and CEA teams working on the Mid Infrared Instrument MIRI for the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be replacing the Hubble Space Telescope.
The MIRI instrument is being built jointly by Europe and the US, with equal funding by the two parties. It will be one of three main focal instruments for the future infrared observation, astronomy mission to be performed by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Of the three, it is the most likely to lead to important discoveries. A European consortium is responsible for the instrument's optics module and its control electronics as well as the engineering for the optics-sensor assembly, and will also provide technical support for the integration and final testing of MIRI on the telescope. The consortium is composed of ESA (the European Space Agency), the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden Denmark,, Switzerland, Spain and Ireland.
The French part of the project, with technical and financial backing from CNES, will be undertaken by the CEA laboratory (Service d'astrophysique ) and by three CNRS laboratories (Laboratoire d'études spatiales et d'instrumentation en astrophysique - Observatoire de Paris, Laboratoire d'astrophysique de Marseille - Observatoire astronomique de Marseille-Provence and l'Institut d'astrophysique spatiale - Université d'Orsay ) . This contribution comprises the instrument design, the optics bench and its coronagraph mode as well as a national expertise centre. The CEA's astrophysics department will be the prime contractor for the whole MIRI instrument. CNES will also contribute indirect financing for MIRI via its obligatory commitment to ESA's scientific programme. The total of its direct financing for the 2004 to 2018 period, will be no more than 16.96 million Euros (EU 2004).
The JWST will be taking over from the Hubble Space Telescope. It is a joint NASA mission with ESA and CSA (the Canadian Space Agency). It will be launched in 2011 by Ariane 5 to the L2 Lagrange point for an observation mission of 5 to 10 years. The JWST will have a passively cooled telescope observing in the near and mid-infrared ranges with a payload of three main focal instruments: MIRI, NASA's wide field infrared camera and ESA's multi-object infrared spectrometer.
The JWST should enable exciting breakthroughs in our understanding of the origins and evolution of the universe and its constituents, such as the galaxies, stars, protoplanetary and planetary systems … not forgetting other unexpected discoveries which may be made along the way.
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