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Design Reference Mission

The Ad Hoc Science Working Group (ASWG) was responsible for identifying the core science goals for the JWST mission. From 1997 to 1999, it developed hypothetical observing programs to accomplish them. These 25 programs were known as the Design Reference Mission (DRM) and were used to guide telescope, instrument, and satellite designs. 

Ideally, the JWST would be capable of accomplishing the DRM in less than half of its nominal 5-year lifetime, leaving the remainder of the observatory's mission for broader studies and follow-up observations. Observations were included in the DRM because they were thought to be representative of the types of science that people would do with a large, infrared-optimized space telescope. The DRM Programs fall within 5 main themes and are presented in detail sufficient to aid in the development of functional requirements for the JWST mission (e.g., before the selection and final design of the instruments and telescope optics). 

DRM Science Themes


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The NASA James Webb Space Telescope, developed in partnership with ESA and CSA, is operated by AURA’s Space Telescope Science Institute.