JWST launch delay due to communication issue

A communications issue delays the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope by a minimum of two more days, the agency announces late on 14th December.

In a brief statement, NASA says that  –
  • Communication problem between the observatory and the launch vehicle system” delays the launch
  • The launch earlier was on schedule for 22nd December, however, is now postponed to no prior than 24th December

NASA provides no further information about the trouble, saying it will update launch schedules no later than 17th December. Thomas Zurbuchen is NASA’s associate administrator for science. He says that the trouble is with a cable 100 meters long. This is a part of ground support equipment, that is experiencing intermittent failures of data.

This is the second unpleasant incident since the advent of JWST in French Guiana in October to postpone the launch. In November, a clamp band that fastens the spacecraft to its payload adapter was suddenly released. This is imparting vibrations into the spacecraft. Work to test the rocket and verify there was no damage to it thrust back the launch from 18th December to 22nd December. As with this latest event, NASA offers few specifics about that problem.

As lately as 13th December, Arianespace and European Space Agency officials say that the launch remains on plan for 22nd December. “The campaign is an exceptional campaign since it is lasting three months. This is in opposition to a normal campaign, which is one month,” says Stéphane Israël. Stéphane is the chief executive of Arianespace. This is during a panel discussion at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week. “This is the mission of the decade and we have been working on it for 20 years. We are concentrating.”

He adds that more than 150 people from NASA are in Kourou in order to support the launch. “We have given to NASA to maximum visibility into our launcher.”

“I am really very happy that NASA has trusted this launch of a generation to ESA,” says Josef Aschbacher. He is the director-general of ESA. Josef mentions this at the conference earlier in the day. “We are doing our ultimate and our best to be a very strong and good companion. This is in order to make sure this jewel, a rare telescope that will operate for decades. It assures careful arrival to space.”

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