Faulty cable responsible for latest James Webb Space Telescope launch delay

A defective knowledge cable between the James Webb Space Telescope and launch pad tools at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, brought about the massive observatory’s latest launch delay, European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA representatives stated in a briefing on Thursday (Dec. 16). 

ESA, which has a few 10% stake within the James Webb Space Telescope mission, is offering the rocket that may ship the 6.5-metric-tonne telescope into space. The Ariane 5 rocket, operated by European firm Arianespace because the mid-Nineteen Nineties, is without doubt one of the most dependable launchers obtainable. 

Engineers readying the grand telescope for its upcoming liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport, nevertheless, just lately discovered {that a} cable relaying knowledge between the telescope and a “launch table” wasn’t functioning correctly. That discovery pushed the launch again d from Dec. 22 to no earlier than Dec. 24, with extra data anticipated to be introduced in a while Thursday. 

Related: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has a shiny giant mirror made of gold hexagons. Here’s why.

“It’s an interface issue in the electrical network connecting the observatory and the ground support equipment,” Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA director of space transportation, stated within the briefing. “It’s a cable located in the launch table, which is experiencing some intermittent losses of data.”

Neuenschwander added that ESA and NASA groups are nonetheless investigating the problem and count on to launch extra data in a while Thursday. 

Webb, which was mounted onto the rocket earlier this week, has not but been sealed into the Ariane 5’s fairing, which is able to defend it throughout liftoff and early ascent by means of the ambiance. The cable problem was found in the course of the so-called “aliveness test” that was meant to substantiate the well being of the spacecraft earlier than its encapsulation into the rocket fairing, Thomas Zurbuchen, the affiliate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate, stated within the briefing. 

“With the interface issue, we were delayed with the aliveness test,” Zurbuchen stated. “The test extends for several hours, and that really was on the critical path. We have a meeting tonight at about 6 p.m. E.T., where we will look at whether we have managed to do this aliveness test and go forward with the encapsulation.”

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Zurbuchen added that the groups will not be taking any probabilities with the $10 billion observatory, which took 30 years to design and construct (and is already many years delayed and some billion {dollars} over funds). 

“This was always going to be a special launch,” Zurbuchen stated. “We have had recently four launches at NASA where we had multiple communication losses like this and we went forward with the launch. We were taking more risks. We are absolutely not taking any risks with Webb because this is already risky enough. So we are making absolutely sure that everything works.”

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

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