Malindi Ground Station in Kenya Makes Contact with the James Webb Space Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope Launch. Source: NASA

The USD 10 billion James Webb telescope has left Earth on a quest to reveal new and unexpected discoveries and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it. Webb, the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope was successfully lifted atop an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on December 25, at 7:20 a.m. (ET). In addition, the telescope is a joint venture with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency, hoping to explore our solar system and exoplanets. 

The James Webb Space Telescope at the launch site. Source: NASA

The telescope’s flight to orbit lasted just under 30 minutes, with a signal confirming a successful outcome picked up by a ground antenna at Malindi in Kenya. The Malindi ground station is jointly owned by the European space agency and the Italians. The Luigi Broglio Space Center (BSC) is an Italian-owned spaceport near Malindi, named after its founder and Italian space pioneer Luigi Broglio. However, the centre was developed in the 1960s through a partnership between the Sapienza University of Rome’s Aerospace Research Centre and NASA. In 2020, the Kenyan parliament ratified a new deal on using the multi-billion dollar rocket launching facility. This agreement meant that Kenya would receive KES 25 million (USD 250,000) annually from Italy to use the land. Furthermore, the KES 25 million deal will be reviewed every five years, with a USD 50,000 (KES 5 million) increment.

The Webb telescope, named after an architect of the Apollo Moon landings, is the successor to the Hubble telescope launched in 1990. However, engineers from the three agencies have developed the new telescope to be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope.

The world’s most complex space science observatory will now begin its six months commissioning in space. At the end of commissioning, the telescope will deliver its first images thanks to its four onboard cutting-edge science instruments with highly sensitive infrared detectors of unequalled resolution.

Furthermore, the telescope’s revolutionary technology will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, to everything in between.