Space Science Reviews

, Volume 123, Issue 4, pp 485-606

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The James Webb Space Telescope

  • Jonathan P. GardnerAffiliated withLaboratory for Observational Cosmology, Code 665, Goddard Space Flight Center Email author 
  • , John C. MatherAffiliated withLaboratory for Observational Cosmology, Code 665, Goddard Space Flight Center
  • , Mark ClampinAffiliated withLaboratory for Exoplanet and Stellar Astrophysics, Code 667, Goddard Space Flight Center
  • , Rene DoyonAffiliated withDepartement de Physique, Université de Montreal
  • , Matthew A. GreenhouseAffiliated withLaboratory for Observational Cosmology, Code 665, Goddard Space Flight Center
  • , Heidi B. HammelAffiliated withSpace Science Institute
  • , John B. HutchingsAffiliated withHerzberg Institute of Astrophysics
  • , Peter JakobsenAffiliated withAstrophysics Division, RSSD, European Space Agency, ESTEC
  • , Simon J. LillyAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH-Zurich)
    • , Knox S. LongAffiliated withSpace Telescope Science Institute
    • , Jonathan I. LunineAffiliated withLunar and Planetary Laboratory, The University of Arizona
    • , Mark J. MccaughreanAffiliated withAstrophysikalisches Institut PotsdamSchool of Physics, University of Exeter
    • , Matt MountainAffiliated withSpace Telescope Science Institute
    • , John NellaAffiliated withNorthrop Grumman Space Technology
    • , George H. RiekeAffiliated withSteward Observatory, University of Arizona
    • , Marcia J. RiekeAffiliated withSteward Observatory, University of Arizona
    • , Hans-Walter RixAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für Astronomie
    • , Eric P. SmithAffiliated withNASA Headquarters
    • , George SonnebornAffiliated withLaboratory for Observational Cosmology, Code 665, Goddard Space Flight Center
    • , Massimo StiavelliAffiliated withSpace Telescope Science Institute
    • , H. S. StockmanAffiliated withSpace Telescope Science Institute
    • , Rogier A. WindhorstAffiliated withDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, Arizona State University
    • , Gillian S. WrightAffiliated withAstronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large (6.6 m), cold (<50 K), infrared (IR)-optimized space observatory that will be launched early in the next decade into orbit around the second Earth–Sun Lagrange point. The observatory will have four instruments: a near-IR camera, a near-IR multiobject spectrograph, and a tunable filter imager will cover the wavelength range, 0.6 < ; < 5.0 μ m, while the mid-IR instrument will do both imaging and spectroscopy from 5.0 < ; < 29 μ m.

The JWST science goals are divided into four themes. The key objective of The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization theme is to identify the first luminous sources to form and to determine the ionization history of the early universe. The key objective of The Assembly of Galaxies theme is to determine how galaxies and the dark matter, gas, stars, metals, morphological structures, and active nuclei within them evolved from the epoch of reionization to the present day. The key objective of The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems theme is to unravel the birth and early evolution of stars, from infall on to dust-enshrouded protostars to the genesis of planetary systems. The key objective of the Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life theme is to determine the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems including our own, and investigate the potential for the origins of life in those systems. Within these themes and objectives, we have derived representative astronomical observations.

To enable these observations, JWST consists of a telescope, an instrument package, a spacecraft, and a sunshield. The telescope consists of 18 beryllium segments, some of which are deployed. The segments will be brought into optical alignment on-orbit through a process of periodic wavefront sensing and control. The instrument package contains the four science instruments and a fine guidance sensor. The spacecraft provides pointing, orbit maintenance, and communications. The sunshield provides passive thermal control. The JWST operations plan is based on that used for previous space observatories, and the majority of JWST observing time will be allocated to the international astronomical community through annual peer-reviewed proposal opportunities.


galaxies: formation infrared: general planetary systems space vehicles: instruments stars: formation