Webb Crawler

  • Released Monday, December 11th, 2017
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:47PM

When NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope needs to travel, it is carefully packed away in a specially designed container called the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS). As the name implies, the container protects Webb during its journeys on ground, above ground, and over water. Webb’s optical element and science instruments were packed inside STTARS at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before they were flown to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for final cryogenic testing. From Houston, Webb will board an airplane once again to travel to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for integration with the spacecraft bus and sunshield. Once Webb is fully assembled, it will be packed into a larger, modified version of the STTARS container, called “Super STTARS,” and travel by ship to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. The massive container weighs approximately 165,000 pounds (almost 75,000 kilograms) and dwarfs Webb in terms of mass — the telescope weighs approximately 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms) here on Earth. All of that bulk is needed to keep Webb’s individual parts, and eventually the fully assembled telescope, safe during the journey to the launch pad. Watch the video to learn more.

Despite the C-5 Galaxy’s massive size, the STTARS container just barely squeezes under the top of the plane’s cargo hold.

Despite the C-5 Galaxy’s massive size, the STTARS container just barely squeezes under the top of the plane’s cargo hold.

The spacious belly of the C-5 Galaxy was designed to carry U.S. military tanks. Webb gets the plane all to itself.

The spacious belly of the C-5 Galaxy was designed to carry U.S. military tanks. Webb gets the plane all to itself.

When traveling on land, Webb is carefully chauffeured by a semi-truck. The ride is slow - approximately 5 mph (8 kph).

When traveling on land, Webb is carefully chauffeured by a semi-truck. The ride is slow - approximately 5 mph (8 kph).

A French cargo ship will ferry the fully assembled Webb telescope, inside STTARS, to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

A French cargo ship will ferry the fully assembled Webb telescope, inside STTARS, to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.



Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

STTARS Outside Chamber A courtesy Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

STTARS Arrival in Texas Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

C-5 Galaxy belly Image Credit: NASA/Desiree Stover

James Webb Space Telescope Semi-Truck Transport Image Credit: NASA/Desiree Stover

French cargo ship Image Credit: NASA/Charles Diaz