Launch Of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed Due To ‘Incident’

The launch of James Webb Space Telescope was delayed by at most four days, to allow for further tests.

It was planned to be launched into orbit on the 18th of December. It will be launched no later than the 22nd day of the month.

An US space agency announcement stated that the “incident” had occurred during launch preparations , which caused an abrupt vibration within the observatory.

An exact date for lift-off for the Ariane rocket, will be confirmed after the probe, Nasa added.

JWST is the $10 billion successor to the legendary Hubble telescope. It’s made to look further into the Universe than Hubble’s predecessor and, consequently it will be able to look back further in time – to more than 13.5 billion years back. The goal is to find the first stars that illuminate the universe.

Scientists also anticipate using its advanced capabilities to examine deep into the planet’s atmosphere with the hopes that evidence of life could be observed.

Webb is currently stationed at his home at the European Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

Engineers were in the procedure of fitting the telescope its launch adapter – the big circle that holds it on top of its rocket when a clamp that was securing the telescope unexpectedly opened.

The main concern is that the incident could have sent a powerful physical shock to the telescope.

The US space agency’s statement stated: “A Nasa-led anomaly review board was immediately convened to investigate and instituted additional testing to determine with certainty the incident did not damage any components. Nasa and its mission partners will provide an update when the testing is completed at the end of this week.”

Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, the director of research at Nasa said that sensors that are normally attached to the telescope when it was transported were removed.

“Just for sheer caution what we have done… [is go back] to a small number of subsystems and just do the functional tests to make sure that nothing happened as this energy went into the [telescope],” he told reporters.

“When you work on a $10bn telescope, conservatism is the order of the day.”

The telescope is regarded as durable. It is designed to withstand the extreme shaking and noise that occurs when the Ariane rocket is pushed far away from its launch pad.

A part of the development testing for Webb included putting the device on top of a table, and shaking it with a high frequency.

Engineers are in a control room close to the cleanroom, where Webb is held in Kourou. The entire observatory’s system is linked to the monitoring computers in the room. Functional checks of sub-systems are, therefore, fairly simple to carry out.

Webb was on top of its preparations for Kourou. It even surpassed time. If the present investigation proves nothing amiss, Engineers will move forward by fueling the telescope before lifting it onto the top of Ariane vehicle around one week before the roll-out to the pad for launch.

JWST is a collaborative project by Nasa together with NASA and the European as well as Canadian Space agencies.

(Adapted from BBC.com)

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