The James Webb Space Telescope, located 15,00,000 kilometers away from Earth and known as the world’s most powerful observatory, has suffered another setback. The Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) instrument on the telescope experienced a communication delay, causing its flight software to time out.
The NIRISS, a specialized instrument with a wavelength range of 0.8 to 5.0 microns, is a crucial component of the FGS/NIRISS and is used to investigate first light detection, exoplanet detection and characterization, and exoplanet transit spectroscopy. It has three main modes, each of which addresses a separate wavelength range.
Unfortunately, the instrument is currently not available for science operations as NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) work together to determine and correct the root cause of the delay. In a statement, NASA reassured that there is no indication of any danger to the hardware and that the observatory and other instruments are all in good health. The affected science observations will be rescheduled.
This is not the first time that the spacecraft has faced a glitch in the vacuum. In August last year, its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) faced a technical issue. The medium-resolution spectroscopy showed increased friction during setup for a science observation on August 4. Engineers had to devise a new method to use the mechanism despite the issue.
The $10 billion telescope also sustained a micrometeoroid impact as it continued with the final stages of commissioning ahead of beginning science operations. Engineers had to initiate a delicate readjustment of the impacted mirror segment to help “cancel out a portion of the distortion” caused by the micrometeoroid. While Webb’s mirrors are engineered to withstand bombardment with dust-sized particles flying at extreme velocities in space, the most recent impact was “larger than was modeled.”
Despite these setbacks, NASA remains committed to ensuring the success of the James Webb Space Telescope and its ability to provide groundbreaking insights into the workings of the universe.