from the trick-or-telescope dept.
NASA hopes to launch the much-anticipated James Webb Space Telescope [(JWST)] from French Guiana on October 31, 2021, the agency announced today. Ongoing technical challenges and the covid-19 pandemic were cited as reasons for the latest delay to the project.
[...] The new date—October 31, 2021—represents a seven-month delay from the most recent launch target of March 2021 atop an Ariane 5 rocket.
[...] James Webb is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which is now 30 years old. The project is currently in the integration and testing phase of development, the final phase before it gets transported to French Guiana. Once in space, some million miles away from Earth, Webb will use its infrared telescope to observe some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, study star-forming nebulae, and even scan the atmospheres of distant exoplanets.
[...] At a NASA press conference earlier today, Gregory Robinson, JWST program director, said the decision to move the launch from March 2021 to October 2021 had to do with lingering development challenges and hardships imposed by the covid-19 pandemic. NASA, he said, was planning to re-evaluate the project's schedule margins prior to covid-19, but the pandemic forced the issue, resulting in yet another delay.
When asked to account for the seven-month delay, Robinson said three months had to do with covid-19 and two months had to do with existing technical issues, such as pending vibration testing, a review of the telescope's new sunshield, risk-reduction measures, among other outstanding tasks. The remaining two months were added as a buffer, said Robinson.
NASA's press release.
It looks like the launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope has slipped again. It was slated to launch this coming Halloween but now it will be at mid-November at the earliest.
According to Ars Technica:
Last summer, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) set an October 31, 2021, launch date for the $10 billion telescope. The instrument, which is the largest science observatory ever placed into space, will launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket from a spaceport in French Guiana. Now, however, three considerations have pushed the launch into November or possibly early December.
[...] The launch campaign, which begins when the telescope arrives in French Guiana, requires 55 days. Asked whether this means that Webb will not launch until mid-November at the earliest, Zurbuchen said this assessment was correct.
A delay of a few weeks is not much, considering the initial launch timeframe was around 2007. Still, there are reasons for optimism. Pushing back the launch by weeks rather than months or years is an indication that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for the successor to Hubble.
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The James Webb Space Telescope is due to launch on Saturday (Dec. 25) during a 32-minute window that opens at 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT). The massive observatory will blast off from Kourou, French Guiana, atop an Ariane 5 rocket operated by European launch provider Arianespace. You can watch launch coverage live at Space.com beginning at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) courtesy of NASA or you can watch directly at the agency's website.
ESA launch kit (PDF).
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