The James Webb Space Telescope has become a long-running ambitious NASA project that has been repeatedly delayed. Now, the US agency plans to launch the telescope on December 18, 2021, just months after completing tests in late August. The orbital observatory will reach orbit aboard the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 launch vehicle. The launch pad is located in French Guiana, where part of the rocket has already been delivered.
Construction of “James Webb” began back in 1996 and was completed in 2016. Its launch was originally scheduled for 2018, but the mission team faced a number of challenges related to its complex design. Because of this, a number of delays followed, and the telescope itself remained disassembled until 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has further alienated NASA’s plans.
The meaning of “James Webb” has not changed. It is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, equipped with a much larger mirror (6.5 meters in diameter) with an emphasis on infrared observations. This should help detect early galaxies that even Hubble cannot find. The mission will be relatively short, as the telescope itself needs fuel to maintain its orbit (5-10 years). Astronomers and astrophysicists believe that during this time, “James Webb” will help solve a number of cosmic mysteries.