Design Engineering

COM DEV completes instrument for James Webb Space Telescope

By Design Engineering Staff   

General Aerospace Aerospace James Webb Telescope

Fine Guidance Sensor took nearly a decade to complete and represents the most complex project in the company’s history.

Ottawa — COM DEV International Ltd. announced that it has completed work on the instrument it designed and built for the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The two-in-one instrument will serve to point the telescope precisely. The instrument has been accepted by COM DEV’s customer, the Canadian Space Agency, and is set to be shipped to NASA next week for integration into the telescope.

Canada is providing Webb’s Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS), as well as one of the telescope’s four science instruments: the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS).

The Fine Guidance Sensor consists of two redundant cameras that will allow the Webb telescope to determine its position on the sky, locate its celestial targets and remain accurately pointed, down to one millionth of a degree.

The NIRISS is designed to find the earliest and most distant objects in the Universe and discover Earth-like “exoplanets” and determine their chemical composition to seek water vapour, carbon dioxide and other biomarkers such as methane and oxygen.


Slated for launch in 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope is a joint project between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. The Webb telescope will examine the first stars and galaxies to form after the Big Bang, study the formation of new stars, and seek extra-solar planetary systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth.

Canada’s contribution — designed, built and tested by COM DEV at its facilities in Ottawa and Cambridge, Ontario – will buy Canadian astronomers a share of observing time once the telescope launches.


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