The James Webb Space Telescope took off from French Guiana this morning at 6:20 CST:
Ground teams began receiving telemetry data from Webb about five minutes after launch. The Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket performed as expected, separating from the observatory 27 minutes into the flight. The observatory was released at an altitude of approximately 75 miles (120 kilometers). Approximately 30 minutes after launch, Webb unfolded its solar array, and mission managers confirmed that the solar array was providing power to the observatory. After solar array deployment, mission operators will establish a communications link with the observatory via the Malindi ground station in Kenya, and ground control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will send the first commands to the spacecraft.
The telescope will travel for 30 days to Lagrange 2, the point just outside Earth's orbit where the gravities of Earth, the Moon, and the Sun create a stable solar orbit:
This special orbit allows one side of Webb’s sunshield to always face the Sun, Earth, and Moon, blocking their heat and light from reaching the telescope’s heat-sensitive optics. Webb’s month-long journey takes it to the second Lagrange (L2) point, one of five positions in space where the gravitational pull of the Sun and Earth balances the centripetal force required for a spacecraft to move with them. This makes Lagrange points particularly useful for reducing the fuel required for a spacecraft to remain in position. The location also enables continuous communications with Webb through the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant antennas managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Shortly after the telescope parks at L2, it will start investigating the far-infrared radiation from the era 10 billion years ago when galaxies first formed. At this writing, Webb is 70,000 km from Earth and has another 1.37 million km to go.