Eyes in the sky
Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), a defense and aerospace company that from the beginning was chosen by NASA to design, build and coordinate the pre-launch performance testing of the James Webb telescope which was launched into orbit in 2021 after a 35-year planning effort, $10 billion dollars and 14 countries involved along with state agencies working in conjunction to make it a reality.
This is perhaps one of mankind’s greatest efforts to understand the origin of everything. As Northrop Grumman Company (NYSE: NOC), the prime contractor in the fabrication of the device, rightly states, “A space telescope is, in a sense, a time machine.” Not surprisingly, considering that it has a mirror more than 20 feet in diameter that seeks to reflect the beginnings of the universe.
While newspapers were publishing the first stunning photos from the Hubble telescope launched in 1990, Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) was working on its successor, which took advantage of a new wave of technological advances to observe galaxies that formed hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang. For this, the telescope must observe in the infrared spectrum, so the company Teledyne Technologies (NYSE: TDY), an expert in infrared, ultraviolet and X-ray technology, joined the project.
Thus, the James Webb was equipped with sensitive infrared detectors used in the cameras and sensors that analyze the chemical composition, temperature and velocity of the object it is observing. For the James Webb to operate properly, specialized software is needed. This is where Raytheon Technologies (NYSE: RTX) brought all its expertise to develop the core software that provided command and control of the observatory, analysis, storage and download of the captured data. Raytheon Technologies (NYSE: RTX) was involved from the beginning of the project, significantly shortening the time frame.
The joint effort led to the successful launch of the James Webb Telescope in 2021 and the expectations in the scientific community were very high. This has been the greatest opportunity yet to learn more about our origins and everything around us. While the main goal of the mission is to obtain information about the beginnings of the universe, the research may lead to the discovery of new elements, sites that may be visited and inhabited by humans in the future, and even evidence of extraterrestrial life.
It seems like an eternity has passed since the first telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century, but the purpose seems to be the same: to understand who we are and why, by looking outward and exploring the endless universe. Astronomy seeks to get closer and closer to the answer with its tools. It’s estimated that the telescope will be operational for 5 to 10 years running mainly on solar energy and a small amount of fuel. Meanwhile, NASA is already thinking about the successor to the James Webb telescope, called HWO (Habitable Worlds Observatory). Its name generates enthusiasm and gives us a hint of what is to come. Perhaps our evolution will be to become a Multiplanetary Species.