NASA moves ahead with December launch for Hubble successor




  • In Science
  • 2021-11-25 19:06:00Z
  • By CBS News

An inspection following a ground-processing incident that unexpectedly shook the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope found no signs of damage, NASA says, keeping the costly observatory on track for launch December 22.

The powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and one of the most expensive science projects in history originally was targeted for takeoff December 18 atop an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket, a contribution from the European Space Agency.

But during preflight preparations earlier this month at the Kourou, French Guiana, launch site, a high-tension "clamp band," designed to help attach the telescope to the booster's upper stage, suddenly released, imparting an unexpected vibration that jostled the fragile observatory.

An artist
An artist's impression of the James Webb Space Telescope with its mirrors and sunshade fully deployed.  

NASA announced Monday the launch would be delayed at least four days and that an "anomaly review board" had been convened to assess the incident and to determine if any of the observatory's mechanisms or sub-systems might have been damaged or shaken out of the precise alignment needed for smooth operations.

On Wednesday, NASA announced the results of the review in a blog post, saying "engineering teams have completed additional testing confirming NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is ready for flight."

"Preparations are resuming toward Webb's target launch date of Wednesday, Dec. 22, at 7:20 a.m. EST," NASA said.

Unlike the more traditional Hubble, which views the heavens in visible wavelengths, Webb's much larger 21-foot-wide primary mirror is designed to capture faint infrared emissions from the first stars and galaxies to form in the wake of the Big Bang birth of the cosmos.

To do that, the telescope must operate at temperatures near absolute zero, cooled by a five-layer sunshade the size of a tennis court. The sunshade and the segmented primary mirror must be folded up to fit inside the Ariane 5's nose fairing and then deploy in space like a robotic origami.

Webb was designed to endure the vibrations and acoustics of launch, but it was not immediately known what sort of "loads" the unplanned clamp release might have imparted or what caused the mechanism to release in the first place.

But NASA's blog post, without addressing why the clamp band released, said the engineering review concluded the telescope was not damaged in any way.

"A NASA-led anomaly review board concluded no observatory components were damaged in the incident," the post said. "A 'consent to fuel' review was held, and NASA gave approval to begin fueling the observatory. Fueling operations will begin Thursday, Nov. 25, and will take about 10 days."

Supply chain issues to affect holiday shopping season

Medical officials warn holiday gatherings could lead to spike in COVID hospitalizations, deaths

President Biden spends Thanksgiving in Nantucket while his Build Back Better plan hangs in limbo in the Senate

COMMENTS

More Related News

Atlas 5 rocket launches two Space Force satellites
Atlas 5 rocket launches two Space Force satellites

Two NASA payloads hitched a ride to orbit in a $1.14 billion Space Force mission.

Ariel: Contract signed to build European planet telescope
Ariel: Contract signed to build European planet telescope

Airbus will lead the construction of the Ariel observatory which will study 1,000 distant worlds.

NASA
NASA's 10 new astronauts: pilots, doctor, physicist, cyclist
  • World
  • 2021-12-06 20:29:30Z

NASA selected 10 new astronauts Monday, half of them military pilots, as it looks ahead to the moon and Mars. The space agency introduced the six men and...

Nasa unveils new class of astronaut candidates
Nasa unveils new class of astronaut candidates

The six men and four women could fly to the space station and on future missions to the Moon.

Elon Musk says SpaceX is building a launch pad for Starship orbital flights on Florida
Elon Musk says SpaceX is building a launch pad for Starship orbital flights on Florida's eastern coastline

Elon Musk said SpaceX's launch pad in Florida will have a better launch tower and ground systems than its facilities at Starbase in South Texas.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Science