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Nasa delays launch of $8.8 bn James Webb Space Telescope to 2019

The successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope, Webb will now launch between March and June 2019

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Nasa James Webb Space Telescope
This undated photo provided by NASA shows an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope showing a breeding ground for stars in the Constellation Carina, about 20,000 light years from Earth. Friday, April 24, 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of Hubble'

has pushed the planned launch of its $8.8 billion Space Telescope from October 2018 to the spring of 2019, citing spacecraft- integration issues. The successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope, will now launch between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities, said. The telescope will be the world's most powerful space telescope ever built, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide, according to the US space agency. The 6.5-metre diameter infrared-optimised telescope is designed to study an extremely wide range of astrophysical phenomena, including the first stars and galaxies that formed, the atmospheres of nearby planets outside our solar system, and objects within our own solar system. "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. "Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected," said Zurbuchen. As part of an international agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide a desired launch window one year prior to launch, recently performed a routine schedule assessment to ensure launch preparedness and determined a launch schedule change was necessary. The spacecraft itself, comprised of the spacecraft bus and Sun-shield, has experienced delays during its integration and testing. The additional environmental testing time of the fully assembled observatory - the telescope and the spacecraft - will ensure that will be fully tested before launching into space, said. All the rigorous tests of the telescope and the spacecraft to date show the mission is meeting its required performance levels, it said. Existing programme budget accommodates the change in launch date, and the change will not affect planned science observations. "Webb's spacecraft and Sun-shield are larger and more complex than most spacecraft," said Eric Smith, programme director for the Space Telescope at "The combination of some integration activities taking longer than initially planned, such as the installation of more than 100 Sun-shield membrane release devices, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer," said Smith. "Considering the investment has made, and the good performance to date, we want to proceed very systematically through these tests to be ready for a Spring 2019 launch," he said. is an international project led by with its partners ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

First Published: Fri, September 29 2017. 14:13 IST