NASA is delaying James Webb Telescope again, agency says

NASA is AGAIN delaying the start of its $10 billion James Webb Telescope that can detect potential signatures of life on other planets because the rocket to launch it isn’t ready

  • NASA is delaying the James Webb Telescope again by at least a few weeks 
  • A number of factors were considered in pushing it back, including the shipment of telescope, the readiness of the Ariane 5 rocket and the readiness of the spaceport in South America
  • It has been pushed back several times, most recently to October 31st because of the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • The delays are partly responsible for the increased cost. Initial estimated at $1.6 billion, the James Webb Telescope now costs $10 billion 
  • Once it is launched into space, it will settle in space, 930,000 miles above Earth 
  • The massive telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago

After being put behind schedule in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA is once again delaying the start of its $10 billion James Webb Telescope because the rocket to launch it isn’t ready. 

And it’s not going to be launched anytime soon – especially because the telescope needs a 55-day preparation period after it reaches the French territory in South America from which it’s to be launched.

A NASA spokesperson told on Wednesday the launch of the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will happen ‘no earlier than October 31.’   

According to Ars Technica, the Ariane 5 rocket that will launch the telescope has been grounded since August 2020 due to a ‘payload fairing issue.’ 

Officials at Arianespace, which is managing the launch, said previously the root problem of the payload fairing issue has been diagnosed and has been fixed. Nonetheless, the rocket has still not launched. It isn’t clear why. 

Separately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted activity at the spaceport in French Guiana, the French territory on the northeast coast of South America, due to the limited supply of vaccines there.     

Such delays are typical for NASA in a complicated launch where everything must go just right. But it’s a disappointment for the agency, nonetheless, which originally sought to send the telescope into space as early as 2007. 

‘Webb will ship to the launch site in August with little to no schedule margin,’ the NASA spokesperson said in an email to 

‘Launch processing will take two months. The observatory has completed all the post-environmental testing deployments, and it’s in its final integration and folding stages. Final stow, closeout, and pack and ship are imminent.’

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will launch ‘no earlier than October 31,’ a NASA spokesperson told

NASA recently unfolded the giant mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope ‘like a piece of origami artwork’ one last time ahead of its launch later this year

The spokesperson added NASA is working both with the European Space Agency and Arianespace on establishing the launch date, which will happen ‘approximately four months after the first launch of the Ariane 5 this year, which is scheduled for late July.’  

At a press briefing on Tuesday, the European Space Agency (ESA) said the launch could be delayed, but did not give a firm launch date. 

The telescope’s director for launch services, Beatriz Romero, said there were a ‘combination of different factors’ to consider, including the shipment of telescope, the readiness of the Ariane 5 rocket and the readiness of the spaceport in South America.

At the briefing, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, confirmed that it would not launch until mid-November at the earliest, citing the 55-day launch campaign that the telescope needs after it arrives in French Guiana. 

Supported by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), it has a massive 21ft 4 inch mirror that was commanded to fully expand and lock itself into place, replicating the process that will happen in space

Zurbuchen added that NASA and the primary contractor on the telescope, Northrop Grumman, are close to putting it into a container where it will be shipped by boat before arriving in French Guiana. 

In July 2020, the launch of the telescope was pushed back to October 31, 2021 from March 2021, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

It was initially scheduled to launch as early as 2007, however the telescope has faced a number of delays in recent years.

Some of the delays have been technical issues, which have raised the price of the telescope from the initial estimate of $1.6 billion to the $10 billion it currently costs.  

One of the most important parts of the mission is the the five-layer sunshield, which NASA has said previously said is “designed to keep Webb’s mirrors and scientific instruments cold by blocking infrared light from the Earth, Moon and Sun.”  

Researchers believe the James Webb Telescope could prove the existence of life on another planet could be proved as early as 2026

Once it is launched into space on the aforementioned Ariane 5 rocket, it will settle in space, 930,000 miles above Earth. 

In August 2019, NASA announced that it had successfully assembled the craft, marking the biggest milestone of its long road to completion. 

It will offer unprecedented insight into the atmospheric composition of gas dwarf planets.     

The massive telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago. 

It will observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, as well as the moons and planets in the solar system.

In doing so, it will use the most advanced technologies to make observations including infrared light, learning about atmospheres of target worlds that have entirely different chemistry from Earth.

Earlier this year, researchers at The Ohio State University said the telescope could detect a signature of life on other planets in as little as 60 hours. 


NASA and partners plan to launch their next major space telescope later this year and it will serve as the natural successor to Hubble.

Primarily an infrared telescope, it will have a wider spectrum view than Hubble and operate further out from the Earth, in a solar orbit, rather than an Earth orbit. 

Research by Ohio State University claims that within five years of it coming online, James Webb will have found signs of alien life on a distant world.

Graduate student Caprice Phillips calculated that it could feasibly detect ammonia created by living creatures around gas dwarf planets after just a few orbits. 

The James Webb telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago.

It will also observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin.

This is about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius). 

Officials from the space agencies responsible for the telescope say the cost may exceed the $8 billion (£5.6 billion) program cap set by Congress.

NASA has already poured $7 billion (£5 billion) into the telescope since it was first proposed as a replacement for the long-running Hubble space telescope.

When it is launched in 2021, it will be the world’s biggest and most powerful telescope, capable of peering back 200 million years after the Big Bang.

James Webb is designed to last for five years but NASA hopes it will operate for a decade or more, although due to its distance from Earth it can’t be easily repaired.

It is 66ft by 46ft and will operate at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point about 930,000 miles from the Earth – almost four times further out than the moon. 

The telescope is set to launch on a European workhorse Ariane-5 rocket at the end of October 2021, with the first observations expected in 2022.

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