from the looking-forward-to-first-light dept.
NASA's next big space telescope just took another step toward its highly anticipated 2021 launch.
The $9.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope has passed "environmental testing," a series of trials designed to simulate the considerable rigors of launch, NASA officials announced today (Oct. 6).
"The successful completion of our observatory environmental tests represent[s] a monumental milestone in the march to launch," Webb project manager Bill Ochs, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said today in a statement. "Environmental testing demonstrates Webb's ability to survive the rocket ride to space, which is the most violent portion of its trip to orbit approximately a million miles from Earth."
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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