Alien-Hunting NASA's James Webb Telescope launch date has been postponed tom 2019. According to the space agency the reason behind the postponement was not the result of any technical concerns, but that integrating all the elements of the spacecraft was “taking longer than expected.”
The launch is expected between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities. Previously Webb was targeted to launch in October 2018.
"The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
"Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected," said Zurbuchen. As part of an international agreement with the
European Space Agency (ESA) to provide a desired launch window one year prior to launch, NASA recently performed a routine schedule assessment to ensure launch preparedness and determined a launch schedule change was necessary. The spacecraft itself, comprised of the spacecraft bus and Sun-shield, has experienced delays during its integration and testing. The additional environmental testing time of the fully assembled observatory - the telescope and the spacecraft - will ensure that Webb will be fully tested before launching into space, NASA said.
After the launch of the James Webb Telescope it will be the world’s biggest space telescope. It is sometimes also referred to as Hubble’s successor, as it will build on and expand many of the discoveries made with the 27-year-old telescope.
"Webb's spacecraft and Sun-shield are larger and more complex than most spacecraft," said Eric Smith, programme director for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA.
"The combination of some integration activities taking longer than initially planned, such as the installation of more than 100 Sun-shield membrane release devices, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer," said Smith.
"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 said.
The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s next great multi-purpose observatory and will be the world’s most powerful space telescope ever built, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. The 21-foot (6.5-meter) diameter infrared-optimized telescope is designed to study an extremely wide range of astrophysical phenomena: 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. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.