Raytheon Intelligence & Space’s Flight Operations System Supports James Webb Space Telescope Launch and Interstellar Mission

Ground controls support launch, ongoing deployment and critical maneuvers

AURORA, Colo., (March. 8, 2022) – Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, built and delivered the ground test and flight operations systems in support of the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope and its interstellar observation mission.

The RI&S ground software that “flies” the telescope was used during rigorous testing ahead of the launch. On orbit, the RI&S ground control software monitors the health and performance of the observatory, providing the Mission Operations team insight into the status of the Webb systems.

“Raytheon Technologies has a long history with this revolutionary observatory,” said Kristin Robertson, president of Space & C2 for RI&S. “From observatory development, test, and integration through the launch in December, we’ve been supporting the international effort, which will discover more about our universe than ever before.”

Ground controls for space vehicles are usually built after development is well under way; but RI&S started early in the process. This “Test Like You Fly” concept integrated ground system software early in the observatory development, reducing integration time and minimizing flight risk. The RI&S system was utilized for instrument testing conducted at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, cryo-vac testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, integration of the observatory in California and ultimately at the launch site in French Guiana.

“The observatory is smart,” said Walt Burns, RI&S program manager for the Flight Operations System. “We upload an observation plan, and Webb autonomously maneuvers to the targets and executes the observations defined in the plan.”

The core software, developed by RI&S, provides command and control of the observatory, telemetry analysis and storage, ground contact scheduling, uploading of the observation plan, and downloading of the observation data for the astronomers and scientific community.

“This is a very special mission, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; the telescope operates in the infrared, seeing through dust and ultimately observing light from shortly after the Big Bang,” said Burns.

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About Raytheon Intelligence & Space

Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, delivers the disruptive technologies our customers need to succeed in any domain, against any challenge. A developer of advanced sensors, cyber services and software solutions, Raytheon Intelligence & Space provides a decisive advantage to civil, military and commercial customers around the world.