This article on Space.com contains a live video of the James Webb space telescope separating from the Ariane rocket’s upper stage payload capsule; forgive me if I am using the incorrect terminology.

Here is a screenshot from the perspective of the upper stage payload capsule showing the telescope separating before heading into deep space at around 00:27:16 into launch:

Screenshot of the James Webb Space Telescope heading into deep space at 00:27:16 into launch.

That angle and perspective makes sense to me… But what confuses me is this screenshot from the same video at about 00:27:30.

The shot is fairly cinematic and dramatic: Where exactly was this part of the video taken from? How was this unique perspective achieved? The ISS (International Space Station)? Or perhaps from something else?

Screenshot of the James Webb Space Telescope heading into deep space at 00:27:30 into launch.


2 Answers 2


The imagery is mostly computer generated. There are a few ways to tell:

  • The exhaust color on the nozzle of the main and upper stages: the stages use cryogenic hydrogen, which burns transparently in vacuum. In CGI imagery they often add color to the exhaust so that you can visually tell if the engine is on or off (see live stream at 1:47)
  • The vantage point is changing all the time sometimes even from in front of the spacecraft: even if we had a cheap way of getting a camera anywhere near the launch vehicle, it would be prohibitively expensive (needs fuel) to have it move around so often. And having the camera in the flight path of the vehicle (live stream at 1:31) would be a giant no-no in terms of risk.
  • The image quality is too good: compare with the footage from the upper stage (live stream at 1:50), where there is a lot of glare from the reflections and video cuts out a few times.

There are only two times that there's true video footage of the JWST, taken by a camera on the upper stage:

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for actually stating clearly what others are grousing about in the comments! Unless someone else comes along with a better answer, this one gets the checkmark. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2021 at 20:08

From what I observed during a live YouTube stream of the event, there was a camera on the final stage of the rocket that launched the JWST from which we saw the solar panel thing (assembly? module?) being deployed: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mhzSxClfT0.

I also observed that there was a camera on the JWST that showed a part of the JSWT. (I was a bit worried about the oscillations of the gold-coloured bits.)

Any other viewpoints are the result of simulations (CGI).

(If anyone can locate the link to the other footage I refer to, it'd be great if you would be so kind as to edit it in.)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Screenshots are from Nasa TV: youtube.com/watch?v=7nT7JGZMbtM The three real footages are launch at 1:22, fairing separation around 1:26 and the second stage separation at 1:50. $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    Dec 26, 2021 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ @asdfex Can I please recommend to provide an answer that expands on this comment with links, and these time-marks you mention. Something along the lines of: “This footage is a mix of real and CGI footage. Here is the breakdown as I see it.” $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2021 at 22:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.