Science

James Webb telescope lift-off postponed a few days after “incident”

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope was postponed from Dec. 18-22 after an “incident” during preparations in French Guiana, which required additional tests to be carried out to verify that it was not damaged, the company said.

“Technicians were preparing to connect Webb to the launch vehicle adapter, which is used to insert the observatory into the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket,” the US space agency wrote.

“A hose clamp, which secures Webb to the launch vehicle adapter, suddenly came loose unexpectedly, causing a vibration through the observatory,” NASA said.

Therefore, more tests are required to “determine with certainty that the incident did not damage any of the components,” added NASA, which pledged to keep the public informed once these verifications are made, “by the end of the week. “.

The telescope, eagerly awaited by astronomers and astrophysicists around the world, is an ultra-complex gem of engineering. Its huge mirror is made up of, for example, 18 smaller hexagonal mirrors, which must be deployed in orbit during a dangerous sequence, and perfectly aligned to make their observations.

The telescope is currently located in Kourou, French Guiana, where preparations are underway under the responsibility of Arianespace. It was transported there from California after a 16-day sea voyage.

Introduced as the successor to the Hubble telescope, launched in 1990, the JWST was built in the United States under the leadership of NASA and incorporates instruments from the European (ESA) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies.

It must explore with incomparable precision all the phases of the cosmos, up to the first ages of the Universe and the formation of the first galaxies.

It will be placed in orbit around the Sun, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, well beyond the limits of its older brother Hubble, which has been operating at an altitude of 600 km since 1990.

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