Hiccup delays James Webb Space Telescope

Jan 27, 2020
Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been put back by at least four days to allow for more checks.

It was to have been sent into orbit on 18 December and will now go up no earlier than the 22nd of the month.
A US space agency statement said an "incident" had occurred during launch preparations that induced a sudden vibration in the observatory.

A firm date for lift-off, on an Ariane rocket, would be confirmed following the investigation, NASA added.

JWST is the $10bn (£7.5bn; €9bn) successor to the veteran Hubble telescope. It's been designed to look deeper into the Universe than its predecessor and, as a consequence, look further back in time - more than 13.5 billion years ago. The aim is to see the first stars to light up the cosmos.

Scientists also expect to use its more advanced capabilities to study the atmospheres of distant planets in the hope that signs of life might be detected through their off gassing.

Webb is currently at the European Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

Engineers there were in the process of attaching the telescope to its launch adapter - the large ring that will hold it in place atop its rocket - when a securing clamp unexpectedly popped open.

The concern is the event will have sent a sharp mechanical shock through the telescope.

The US space agency statement read: "A NASA-led anomaly review board was immediately convened to investigate and instituted additional testing to determine with certainty the incident did not damage any components. Nasa and its mission partners will provide an update when the testing is completed at the end of this week."

Dr Thomas Zurbuchen, the director of science at NASA, said sensors that would normally be put on the telescope during transport had been taken off.

"Just for sheer caution what we have done... [is go back] to a small number of subsystems and just do the functional tests to make sure that nothing happened as this energy went into the [telescope]," he told reporters.

"When you work on a $10bn telescope, conservatism is the order of the day."

See: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59388109

Yes, conservatism rules the day when NASA is approaching the most expensive and the most complicated space telescope ever launched.
Mar 4, 2020
4 days is no problem. Let's hope they can do fundamental checks before leaving high orbit. A major malfunction like Hubble had, would be hard to repair at a Lagrange Point 2.
Mar 4, 2020
We send the most fragile things into the 2nd worse environment. But it easier then sending things to great depths. Funny how that worked out. Exploring our oceans is harder than exploring near earth space.

Maybe with these new materials, we might make the deep, common.

And spacecraft much stronger.

It's amazing how long it takes to apply new discoveries. Graphene has been around quite a while now, but none of the practical fruits have come. The promise was great.

Imagine replacing our durable structural materials with carbon based materials, instead of metals and concrete. A dream come true for many.

I don't think the problem is gonna be carbon storage or usage, it's gonna be separating it from O2 in a cheap and simple manner.

The bond with carbon has a resonant field frequency. If we could phase sweep the frequency, externally, we might electrically break that bond with a phase reversal.

It might be much easier too attack the bond directly with electronics, instead of indirectly with chemistry.

This might become possible with these new terra hertz and IR signal generating/mixing techniques.

Imagine being able to disassociate molecules cheaply, with the proper electronic jolt.

A no waste society. Every object becomes a resource.