Pencils Down – JWST Passes Key Testing Milestone Ahead of December Launch

James Webb Space Telescope in a Northrop Grumman integration facility in California (Image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

Article: The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s next great observatory, passes final ground tests (

Tereza Pultarova recounts the 30-year, $10 billion journey from concept to spacecraft noting the next challenge facing the enormous vehicle: safe transportation from California to its launch site at the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Pultarova also notes continued testing of the ground systems at the Mission Operations Center (MOC) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore occurring while JWST is in transport. JWST is scheduled to travel through the Panama Canal and reach Kourou at least 55 days before the December 18 launch date. The article concluded by recognizing allegations against the namesake of JWST, claiming the 1960s NASA administrator James Webb had pushed a homophobic and anti-LGBT agenda within the agency, noting that NASA is continuing to investigate whether there are sufficient grounds to update the vehicle’s name.

The first cybersecurity concern after reading this article was for the space vehicle in transit from California to French Guiana, where the vehicle itself may be at its most vulnerable. However, I think the most important cybersecurity implication is regarding the MOC, identified as the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which will be continuing ground systems tests throughout the vehicle transit. With JWST being such a high-profile mission, representing a culmination of cooperation between western democratic powers, certainly non-democratic nation states could pose a significant threat actor risk. Such a nation state could target the critical networks at the JWST MOC to ensure access to the data collected by the telescope, or otherwise seek to destabilize the relationship between the 20 European and North American democracies by impacting the MOC’s capability to communicate with and command JWST.

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