The Son in Orbit

Richard Garriott reflects on his visit to the International Space Station and on growing up with an astronaut dad

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Photo of U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott
Photo: AP Photo/ Mikhail Metzel

U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott gestures before the final test in a mock-up of a Soyuz TMA space craft in Star City outside Moscow on Friday, Sept. 19, 2008. U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, and U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke are scheduled to start for the International Space Station on Oct. 12. (AP Photo/ Mikhail Metzel)
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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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