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60 Years Ago This Month: The Boeing 707 Flies to Paris

Though the jet engine had long been in use, the true jet age dates to October 1958

3 min read
Photo-illustration: Stuart Bradford
Photo-illustration: Stuart Bradford

illustrationPhoto-illustration: Stuart Bradford

Dating the dawn of the jet age is hard because there were so many different “firsts.” The first experimental takeoff of a jet-powered airplane was that of the German Heinkel He 178, in August 1939. The first flight of the first commercial design, the British de Havilland DH 106 Comet, was in July 1949, and its first BOAC commercial flight was in 1952. The Comet, redesigned after catastrophic crashes, made the first transatlantic flight on 4 October 1958. Meanwhile, the Soviet Tupolev Tu-104 entered service in September 1956.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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