Get Ready For A Christmas Countdown: Launch Of NASA’s ‘Extraordinary’ $10 Billion Space Telescope Has Been Delayed Again

By Jamie Carter, Contributor
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb) will be the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space. Getty

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has once again been delayed.

An international partnership between NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the first two space agencies announced separately today that the launch is now targeted for Saturday, December 18, 2021.

Webb, the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space, had formerly been planned to go skywards on October 31, 2021.

The reason for this new delay—the latest in a string of delays—is the heavy-lift rocket, Arianespace’s Ariane 5. After some technical issues in 2020 it successfully launched on July 20, 2021, and is now planned to launch again on October 22, 2021.

Webb will lift-off atop an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket on Flight VA256 from the European spaceport to the northwest of Kourou in French Guiana, South America.

After successful completion of its final tests, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is seen here being prepared for shipment to its launch site. NASA/Chris Gunn

“We are on track, the spaceport is busy preparing for the arrival of this extraordinary payload, and the Ariane 5 elements for this launch are coming together,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation. “We are fully committed, with all Webb partners, to the success of this once-in-a-generation mission.”

The space telescope is designed to reveal the deepest secrets of our Universe, including how the first galaxies, stars and planets were born. It will orbit the second Lagrange point (L2), 900,000 miles/1.5 million kilometres behind Earth with respect to the Sun. From there its sunshield will be able to block light and heat from both the Sun and Earth from disturbing its observations.

An Ariane-5 rocket, carrying two telecommunication satellites blasts off on August 2, 2012 from the European space centre of Kourou, French Guiana. It will eventually place into orbit two geostationary telecommunication satellites — Intelsat-20 for international satellite operator Intelsat, and HYLAS 2 for European operator Avanti Communications. Intelsat-20, which weighs more than six tonnes, will provide a large number of telecommunication, video, telephone and data transmission services in Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Asia. AFP PHOTO / ESA / JM GUILLON - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / JM GUILLON" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by - / ESA / AFP) (Photo by -/ESA/AFP via Getty Images) ESA/AFP via Getty Images

“Webb is an exemplary mission that signifies the epitome of perseverance,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’ve overcome technical obstacles along the way as well as challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. I also am grateful for the steadfast support of Congress.”

“Now that we have an observatory and a rocket ready for launch, I am looking forward to the big day and the amazing science to come,” he added.

Webb is currently in its final stow configuration at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California, and will be delivered to the European spaceport by the end of October.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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