Engineers work on the telescope's hexagonal mirror segments. Image Credit: NASA / Drew Noel
The ambitious successor to the Hubble will be the most powerful space telescope ever created.
Having first been announced back in 1996, the road hasn't been an easy one for the project. Issues with funding almost saw the whole thing cancelled in 2011, but now a critical review milestone has opened the doors to its completion and launch by 2018.
"This is the last major element-level critical design review of the program," said NASA's Richard Lynch. "What that means is all of the designs are complete for the Webb and there are no major designs left to do."
Designed to be the successor to the existing Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the James Webb Space Telescope will be optimized to observe the universe in infrared using a much larger mirror and orbiting at a greater distance that its predecessors.
Scientists hope to use the telescope to learn more about the formation of galaxies, planets and stars while peering further in to the depths of space than ever before.
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James Webb, Hubble