A new report has been published that suggests the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed. The delay has nothing to do with the telescope itself, which is apparently 100 percent ready to go. However, an anomaly has been identified in the Ariane 5 launch vehicle that will push the telescope into orbit. Launch for the telescope is currently set for October 31, 2021.
However, the new report suggests that the launch date could slip by at least a couple of weeks. While the Ariane 5 rocket is considered to be reliable, it has had problems on two previous launches where unexpected acceleration occurred when the fairings separated from the rocket. The fairing is used to protect the payload during launch and while in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The rocket was grounded for several months while the ESA and the rocket’s manufacturer investigated the issue. While two launches suffered from the same issue with the nose fairing, the payloads were placed into space successfully in both instances. Before the James Webb Space Telescope launches into orbit, two other launches using the Ariane 5 rocket will happen, and those are now set for no earlier than June and August of this year, respectively.
Officials say that once the first of those summer launches is conducted, the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to launch about four months later. Those two launches that will occur before the telescope was placed into orbit will be used to push the Eutelsat Quantum and Star One D2 satellites into orbit.
The report published on May 13 says that the rocket manufacturer has to demonstrate the issue with the fairing is corrected on at least two launches before the James Webb Space Telescope will be allowed to launch. Currently, the launch has not been rescheduled, but the report warns a rescheduling is likely.