NASA's James Webb telescope launch delayed again until December 24th

The James Webb team is fixing a communication issue between the telescope and its launch vehicle.

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Mariella Moon
December 15th, 2021
The James Webb Space Telescope (artist's impression)
ESA

NASA was hoping to send the James Webb telescope on its way to space by December 22nd, but its launch has been delayed yet again. You've probably read several variations of that sentence by now if you've been keeping track of the observatory, seeing as its launch has been pushed back quite a few times already. In an announcement posted on the project's official page, NASA said that the James Webb team is working on a communication issue between the telescope and its Ariane 5 launch vehicle. As such, it will be launched no earlier than December 24th.

The James Webb project has experienced numerous setbacks since development started in 1996, due to various reasons that include going overbudget and major redesigns. After testing was suspended in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA worked towards an October 18th, 2021 launch. However, after testing by the agency and primary contractor Northrop Grumman, it was determined that the telescope wouldn't be ready until November or December this year. NASA previously announced a December 18th launch date, which was moved back to the 22nd after an unplanned release of a clamp band that secures James Webb to the launch vehicle adapter prompted a thorough check to ensure the telescope wasn't damaged. 

If everything goes as planned this time, December 24th is the earliest possible launch date that could be scheduled. The telescope could be heading towards the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sun system later than Christmas Eve — NASA says it will reveal more details about its new target launch schedule on December 17th. When it does reach its destination, James Webb will observe the universe with a keener eye than Hubble, thanks to instruments that will allow it to see objects too old and too distant for the older telescope.

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