NASA has planned to delay the launch of its $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope which is said to be the successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope.
Previously Webb was targeted to launch in October 2018 but now it will happen between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities.
"Webb’s spacecraft and sunshield are larger and more complex than most spacecraft. The combination of some integration activities taking longer than initially planned, such as the installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, factoring in lessons learned from earlier testing, like longer time spans for vibration testing, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer", said Eric Smith, program director for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"Considering the investment NASA has made, and the good performance to date, we want to proceed very systematically through these tests to be ready for a Spring 2019 launch", he further added.
The 21-foot diameter infrared-optimized telescope is an international project led by NASA with its partners European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency and is designed to study an extremely wide range of astrophysical phenomena that include the first stars and galaxies that formed; the atmospheres of nearby planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets; and objects within our own solar system.
According to the US space agency, the telescope is next great multi-purpose observatory and it will also be the world’s most powerful space telescope ever built, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide.