To some readers, an introduction to Sir Arthur C. Clarke may be necessary. To others, no introduction will suffice.

Clarke is most famous for his novels, short stories, and screenplays, including Prelude to Space (1951), Childhood's End (1953), Earthlight (1955), The Deep Range (1957), A Fall of Moondust (1961), Glide Path (1963), The Nine Billion Names of God (1967), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Rendezvous With Rama (1973). His nonfiction books and essays, meanwhile, have influenced science, particularly astronautics. They include Interplanetary Flight: An Introduction to Astronautics (Temple Press, 1950), The Exploration of Space (Harper, 1951), The Making of a Moon: The Story of the Earth Satellite Program (Harper, 1957), Voices from the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age (Harper & Row, 1965), The Promise of Space (Harper & Row, 1968), and The Lost Worlds of 2001 (Sidgwick and Jackson, 1972).

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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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