James Webb space telescope not damaged in “incident”: refueling starts

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The “incident” during the preparation for launch of the James Webb space telescope did not damage any components and the slightly delayed launch date of December 22nd can be kept. This was determined by an investigation team led by NASA, whereupon the US space agency gave the green light to refuel the instrument. This should start on Thursday, it should take about ten days. Two days before Christmas Eve, the space telescope will then be launched with an Ariane 5 rocket from the European spaceport in Kourou.

The reason for the check was a clamping band that suddenly and unexpectedly came loose a few days ago before the space telescope was integrated into the payload fairing, causing the entire instrument to vibrate. Then it had to be ensured that the vibrations did not damage any parts of the highly sensitive instrument, what has now happened to the satisfaction of NASA.

After launch at the end of December, the telescope will fly to the so-called Lagrange point L2, which is four times as far from the earth as the moon. In an extremely complicated procedure with many possible sources of error, it will unfold the huge mirror there, subsequent repairs are not possible. This is another reason why it was necessary to be absolutely certain that everything was going according to plan during the preparations.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the long-awaited successor to the decrepit – and currently inactive – Hubble space telescope and a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency ESA and the Canadian CSA. It was originally supposed to start in 2007, but there were immense delays and cost increases. In the meantime, the US Congress had set a cost cap of around 9 billion US dollars, but it was also torn. Most recently, the corona pandemic caused further delays. From mid-2022, it will look back, among other things, to the early days of the universe.

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