James Webb Space Telescope Delayed Again

NASA reports in “NASA Provides Update on Webb Telescope Launch”:

The launch readiness date for the James Webb Space Telescope is moving to no earlier than Dec. 22 to allow for additional testing of the observatory, following a recent incident that occurred during Webb’s launch preparations.

The incident occurred during operations at the satellite preparation facility in Kourou, French Guiana, performed under Arianespace overall responsibility. Technicians were preparing to attach Webb to the launch vehicle adapter, which is used to integrate the observatory with the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket. A sudden, unplanned release of a clamp band – which secures Webb to the launch vehicle adapter – caused a vibration throughout the observatory.


It’s NASA. Delays are par for the course.

Abby-nay, kul, an’ hazar-ho are part of their culture.


Any info on why the launch of a US-taxpayer-funded observatory relies on the French? Orbital mechanics? Inadequate launch capabilities of US-taxpaying entities? Price? Strange goings-on in the NASA bureaucracy? Or … ?

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a joint product of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency. ESA is supplying two of the instruments on the telescope, the launch, and operations manpower in return for representation on the management and access to the observatory for its scientists on a “full partner” basis. Due to the long and tangled history of the JWST, it is possible that at some point in its development the Ariane 5 may have been the only launcher able to carry the JWST to its L2 position, what with the retirement of the U.S. Titan IV and delays in development of the Delta Heavy. Also, Ariane 5 has a longer track record of successful launches than any potential alternative, and for a ten billion US$ spacecraft that took 20 years to develop and has no backup, that’s important to NASA.


The delay will give NASA time to paint a new name on it.


Thank you!

The Jack Webb Space Telescope? Dum-da-dum-DAH.

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Thanks for that info. Having worked in a number of (non-space-related) joint ventures, I wonder if the value of the contributions from NASA’s partners exceeded the additional costs (time, money, decision quality) introduced by having partners?

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From what I’ve read about it over the years, NASA and Northrop-Grumman (and their pre-merger ancestors) have done a fine job messing things up all on their own. Most of the problems have been with the mirrors, sun shield, and deployment mechanisms, none of which have been handled by partners.


Here are more details about the “incident” that caused the latest delay.

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