The oft-delayed James Webb Space Telescope gets delayed again

Enlarge / The towering primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope stands inside a cleanroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (credit: NASA)

Under development for two decades, the James Webb Space Telescope isn't quite ready to go into space yet. On Thursday, NASA announced that the next-generation space telescope would not be ready for launch in October 2018 and would have to slip into 2019.

“The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected.” Engineers have determined that integration activities, such as the installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, will require more time.

The agency said its existing budget reserves would accommodate the launch delay. Now, NASA is targeting a launch between March and June 2019 from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. In the NASA news release, Zurbuchen said taking a little more time to ensure that the Webb telescope can properly deploy in space is a wise investment. The instrument will still be able to complete a full science program—observing everything from exoplanet atmospheres to the earliest galaxies in the universe.

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