The observatory is the space-based portion of the James Webb Space Telescope system.


the Webb Observatory

The Observatory is the space-based portion of the James Webb Space Telescope system and is comprised of three elements, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM), the Optical Telescope Element (OTE), which includes the mirrors and backplane, and the Spacecraft Element, which includes the spacecraft bus and the sunshield.

Labeled Spacecraft

The OTE is the eye of the Observatory. The OTE gathers the light coming from space and provides it to the science instruments located in the ISIM. The backplane is like the "spine" of Webb. It supports the mirrors.

The sunshield subsystem separates the observatory into a warm sun-facing side (spacecraft bus) and a cold anti-sun side (OTE and ISIM). The sunshield keeps the heat of the Sun, Earth, and spacecraft bus electronics away from the OTE and ISIM so that these pieces of the Observatory can be kept very cold (The operating temperature has to be kept under 50 K or -370 deg F).

The spacecraft bus provides the support functions for the operation of the Observatory. The bus houses the six major subsystems needed to operate the spacecraft: the Electrical Power Subsystem, the Attitude Control Subsystem, the Communication Subsystem, the Command and Data Handling Subsystem, the Propulsion Subsystem, and the Thermal Control Subsystem.

The momentum flap balances the solar pressure on the sunshield, like a trim flap in sailing. It's not adjustable on orbit, but it is while it's on the ground.

More Information About the Observatory Elements

gold-coated mirrors

The Integrated Instrument Module (ISIM) includes the following science instruments:

Related Content

More Information and Activites

Try these activities and interactives to learn more about the spacecraft and it's subsystems.

Learn more about the structure and parts of the spacecraft, try your hand at building our paper model of Webb!
scope it out game
Learn more about the different parts of Webb, and compare it to a simple hand-held telescope by playing our "Scope It Out" game!

scope it out game
Explore the interactive 3d spacecraft model (new window) (requires flash).