The James Webb Telescope is designed to provide images from the farthest reaches of space. But its data memory is not exactly big. On July 12, 2022, the operators of the James Webb Space Telescope published the first high-resolution images of distant objects in space. It shows, for example, the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 or the Eta Carinae Nebula, a star-forming region in our Milky Way. Such high-resolution recordings also require storage space.
But the hard drive (the Solid State Drive, or SSD for short) on the James Webb Space Telescope is just 68 gigabytes in size. Much more storage space is not required for the recordings, because they are transmitted to Earth every day.
A small hard drive is perfectly adequate
The space telescope is built to collect about 57GB of data each day and transmit half of it during two four-hour time slots in Earth orbit. The telescope itself does not have extensive long-term storage because it does not need it. Because the data has no use at all in space itself. The data only becomes relevant for us humans on earth.
The data memory from the James Webb telescope was also equipped with an additional redundancy of 10 gigabytes. The operators of the telescope want to ensure that the functionality is maintained even if it decreases during the planned 10-year service life. The hard drive has been radiation hardened to withstand the dangers of space.
However, compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Telescope's data storage vastly outperforms Hubble's two-gigabyte hard drive. In addition, according to IEEE Spectrum, three percent of the memory is reserved for technical and telemetry data. Only after 24 hours of continuous data collection does the memory of the James Webb telescope run out - but since the collected data is sent to Earth daily, the data memory should be sufficient for the runtime of the James Webb space telescope.