The James Webb telescope is packing some very unimpressive storage

Photo of the Southern Ring Nebula from the James Webb telescope
(Image credit: NASA)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may well have produced some of the most awe-inspiring images in the history of deep space photography since its launch, however, even the most modest modern laptop might beat it in the storage stakes. 

The world's most advanced telescope only sports a 68GB Solid State Drive (SSD), though this still beats out the modest 2GB utilized by the Hubble telescope (the world's previous top telescope), it's virtually nothing compared to what's on offer for consumer's nowadays.

To put things into perspective, the Acer Predator GM7000 1TB NVMe Gaming SSD gives you around 1 terabyte of storage for only around £150, quite a bit less than JWST's estimated $10 billion budget.

Why so small?

An interpretation by Tom's Hardware notes that it's important to realize that it's virtually impossible to compare hardware that works in space orbit and what works down on the earth.

The vastly different conditions in space could easily wreck a regular hard drive.

How does NASA get around the problem?

The storage is mostly for short-term usage anyway and only needs to suffice for about 24 hours according to Alex Hunter, a flight systems engineer at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

JWST will apparently have scheduled opportunities to beam the image data to Earth before it gets filled up again, making the journey of around 1.5 million kilometers (932 thousand miles) in the process.

Even the 68-GB figure might well be an exaggeration, 3 percent of the storage is apparently reserved for engineering and telemetry data according to IEEE Spectrum, and in around 10 years it's likely that its storage size will downgrade to about 60GB. 

But what the telescope lacks in storage it definitely makes up for in other capacities. 

The JWST's25 square meter main optic can capture infrared light of up to 28μm in wavelength.

NASA hasn't said why the telescope has such a limited amount of storage space, but it could simply be an age issue.

The initial designs for the project began in 1996, while the first contract for its manufacture was signed in 2003.

  • Want more space than the world's best telescope? Check out our guide to the best cloud storage 

Via Tom's Hardware 

Will McCurdy has been writing about technology for over five years. He has a wide range of specialities including cybersecurity, fintech, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, cloud computing, payments, artificial intelligence, retail technology, and venture capital investment. He has previously written for AltFi, FStech, Retail Systems, and National Technology News and is an experienced podcast and webinar host, as well as an avid long-form feature writer.