Hardware issue delays launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, slipping closer to Christmas Day [Update: No additional damge]

NASA announced Monday that the launch of its next-generation space telescope would move to December 22 after an issue with one of the adapter clamps caused vibrations to the observatory.


Update: NASA confirmed in a blog post that no additional damage was seen during testing.

The incident with the clamp took place during Arianespace’s watch as the company was preparing to mate the telescope to the launch vehicle adaptor. During this procedure, a clamp that holds onto the James Webb Space Telescope suddenly released and caused vibrations through Webb.

Both NASA and Arianespace gave matching statements about the unplanned incident, stating a NASA-led anomaly review board was convened. They will take a look into why this clamp was suddenly released. The review board will also conduct tests on the observatory to ensure no instruments were damaged by the vibrations.

We should receive an update on the telescope later this week when tests are expected to conclude.

JWST’s journey so far

The Webb telescope arrived in French Guiana for launch preparations at the beginning of October. It has since been going through final launch preparations for its ride to space on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket, initially planned for October 18.

The multi-billion-dollar telescope has been under development for decades and is expected to supersede the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship space observatory. However, this telescope has no room for error as Webb will be placed in an orbit past the Moon. This means no rescue missions can be done if a component fails, like what happened with Hubble.

No damage confiremd by NASA

In a blog post on the JWST website, NASA confirmed that no damage was found after the incident. The tests were completed on Wednesday, November 24, and showed the telescope is ready for launch. The new launch date continues to be December 22 at 7:20 a.m. EST.

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