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The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project could be fantastic, It has the promise of seeing farther than Hubble, almost to the beginning of our space/time.

But, orbiting at L2 - while closer by far than other LaGrange points - is still 1.5m KM away from Earth. That is four times more distant than humans have ever travelled.

My question is this: This project has had a difficult construction history. (Most do but this has been more challenging). Are there ideas or plans for rescue/repair/restore missions if/when something goes wrong?

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You are swearing in church! JWST, the major space telescope project of our quarter of a century will succeed and will be a triumph. If there's an issue then entrepreneurial and astronautic supermen will emerge and somehow simply improvise a fix. Docking Dragon with Bigalow and something else and just go there and make things good. When everything is at stake on one single mission, nerves and politics are at play and the tendency is to postpone the potential fiasco to keep the dream alive. But honestly, the failure ratio is getting very low even for more challenging missions like Mars landings. – LocalFluff Jun 30 '14 at 14:49
I like your attitude! – David DelMonte Jun 30 '14 at 15:06
Not worthy of an answer, but note that the JWST will "break" about ten years after launch. That's when it runs out of fuel. – David Hammen Jun 30 '14 at 21:09
It is imho, worthy of an answer.. But anyway, can the fuel cells be replaced? It's taken a long time to build the JWST, and wouldn't we have to start on its replacement now to be ready in 10 years? – David DelMonte Jul 3 '14 at 11:54

There is a docking ring on the JWST, so in theory astronauts could visit it. It would be easier to get to JWST than to the Moon, but more difficult than LEO like we have been doing. Edward Weiler, director of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, had this to say on the subject:

We cannot make the James Webb Space Telescope fully serviceable like the Hubble because that would cost so much money that I don't think this country could afford it. However, what if you have a bad day when you put this thing a million miles out and everything folds out except for an antenna ... it gets stuck? Or a solar panel doesn't fold out completely, and you say, 'gee, I wish we could send an astronaut just to give it a kick'?

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Your source is 7 years old. Is the docking capability still in the mission? – LocalFluff Jun 30 '14 at 14:40
I can't find anything to suggest that it's not. Still, there doesn't seem to be much about this in the last several years... – PearsonArtPhoto Jun 30 '14 at 14:45

None whatsoever. If JWST has issues, it is basically out of luck.

Maybe one day, Orion might be able to go visit, but Orion is a lousy repair platform compared to the Shuttle.

Shuttle had more crew (7 vs 4), more room for equipment, a place to dock the Hubble as a work platform, an RMS to move heavy equipment around (in and out of the Hubble).

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Thanks for the answer, although I was hoping for something more optimistic.. This is what I feared.. Well. I hope all the low bidders got their pieces right. – David DelMonte Jun 30 '14 at 11:52
I like the idea that private industry would mount an effort to fix and takeover the spacecraft/telescope.. – David DelMonte Jun 30 '14 at 15:20
@David DelMonte "Takeover", yeah, I can see how Elon Musk's South African grandfather Auric Goldfinger and his cat will defrost back to life and space pirate the JWST in a Dragon capsule to hold the world astronomical society ransom for... a million dollar! – LocalFluff Jun 30 '14 at 16:00
You know I meant takeover in the sense of engineering project management, and not in the sense of ship piracy... – David DelMonte Jun 30 '14 at 16:10
@MercuryPlus What Lunar Base operation? I wish I could tell you otherwise, but we don't have any. – TildalWave Jul 1 '14 at 14:32

As of 2013, NASA still had a docking ring for the JWST. ① While they have no plans to service JWST, they left the docking capability just in case.

The most likely service vehicles are either an Orion capsule (4 man) or Dragon 2 Capsule (7 man); a Dragon 2 atop a Falcon Heavy could easily reach and have delta-V sufficient for return. ②

References JWST Infographic (

SpaceX Dragon 2 (

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Great. Thanks.. +1 Any idea when those vehicles will come online? (and how did you make your 1 and 2 circles/numbers :) – David DelMonte Jul 3 '14 at 11:52
Is there a published mass breakdown for the Dragon 2? – MercuryPlus Jul 3 '14 at 14:22
The circled numbers are standard unicode (U+2460 to U+2469), @DavidDelMonte. – aramis Jul 3 '14 at 17:36
@MercuryPlus a total mass has been mentioned in videos by Elon Musk. He's mentioned previously that the design is intended as a shuttle capability replacement. – aramis Jul 3 '14 at 17:38
@Aramis: Thanks. – MercuryPlus Jul 3 '14 at 23:09

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