The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) mission is a collaborative project between the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
JWST is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and although its design and science objectives
are quite different, JWST is expected to yield equivalently astonishing breakthroughs in infrared space science.
Due to be launched in 2013 from the French Guiana, the JWST observatory will be placed in an orbit around the anti-
Sun Earth-Sun Lagrangian point, L2, by an Ariane 5 launcher, provided by ESA.
The payload on board the JWST observatory consists of four main scientific instruments: a near-infrared camera
(NIRCam), a combined mid-infrared camera/spectrograph (MIRI), a near-infrared tunable filter (TFI) and a nearinfrared
spectrograph (NIRSpec). The instrument suite is completed by a Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS).
Besides the provision of the Ariane 5 launcher, ESA, with EADS Astrium GmbH (D) as Prime Contractor, is fully
responsible for the funding and the furnishing of NIRSpec and, at the same time, for approximately half of MIRI costs
through special contributions from the ESA member states.
NIRSpec is a multi-object, spectrograph capable of measuring the spectra of about 100 objects simultaneously at low
(R=100), medium (R=1000), and high (R=2700) resolutions over the wavelength range between 0.6 micron and 5.0
micron. In this article we provide a general overview of its main design features and performances.