James Webb Space Telescope launch confirmed for December 24

PARIS | The repeatedly postponed launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by an Ariane 5 rocket was confirmed for December 24 by NASA and Arianespace on Saturday.

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“The James Webb Space Telescope is confirmed for a target launch date of December 24 at 9:20 a.m. Kourou time,” Arianespace tweeted.

An ultra-complex engineering gem, the JWST will be the largest and most powerful ever to be sent into space. It was built in the United States under the direction of NASA, and incorporates instruments from the European (ESA) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies.

Its launch from the Kourou base, where it arrived in October from California, has been postponed twice following minor issues. NASA and Arianespace wanted to exclude any risk linked to the launch of the instrument, developed for more than 20 years at a cost of around ten billion dollars.

The joint teams of NASA and Arianespace “have successfully encapsulated the observatory in the Ariane 5 rocket”, explained NASA, confirming the date of the launch. Already perched at the top of the rocket, the telescope was thus enclosed in its cap.

A general launch review will take place on December 21, and if everything is ready, the rocket will be brought to its launch pad on December 22, NASA said.

Presented as the successor of the Hubble telescope, launched in 1990, the JWST must explore with unparalleled precision all the phases of the cosmos, up to the first ages of the Universe and the formation of the first galaxies.

It will be placed in orbit around the Sun, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.


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