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Problem with Ariane 5 rocket causes Arianespace to delay Webb telescope launch

As first revealed in mid-May, Arianespace has been forced to delay the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope by at least one month because of a problem with the fairing on its Ariane 5 rocket, found during an August 2020 launch.

There have been no Ariane 5 launches since. According to yesterday’s press briefing, however:

“The origin of the problem has been found. Corrective actions have been taken,” Daniel de Chambure, acting head of Ariane 5 adaptations and future missions at ESA, said. “The qualification review has started, so we should be able to confirm all that within a few days or weeks.” He did not elaborate on the problem or those corrective actions, beyond stating that the problem took place during separation of the payload fairing. Industry sources said in May that, on the two launches, the separation system imparted vibrations on the payload above acceptable limits, but did not damage the payloads.

It appears this new delay to Webb’s launch is because two commercial payloads must lift off first before Webb, with the first now scheduled for July. According to Arianespace, it will take two months prep for the next commercial launch, followed by two months prep for the Webb launch. That puts the launch of Webb in November.

Overall this particular delay is slight, only a few weeks, and pales in comparison to the ten years of delays experienced by NASA during development and construction of Webb. It also will add very little to the telescope’s overall budget, which has grown from an original price of $500 million to now about $10 billion.

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From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

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  • Skunk Bucket

    Perhaps you mean $10 Billion, not million? They’re certainly not cutting costs like SpaceX.

    I’ve got the horrible premonition that something’s going to go wrong with this whole project and it will all be for naught. Nothing in particular to back this up, but I’m going to be on pins and needles until Webb is in position and operating nominally.

  • Skunk Bucket: I don’t know how that happened. Fixed to billion, as it should have been and I was certain it was. Thanks.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Serious question. Is the JWST insured against launch failure. Many payloads are, but I don’t know if they have a value of $10 billion.

  • Ray Van Dune: Government payloads are self-insured by the government. If Webb is lost during launch it is gone.

    NASA made its barter deal with Arianespace to use the Ariane 5 partly because of its reputation for reliability.

  • Lee Stevenson

    I also get “bad vibes” from the James Webb… And I don’t think it’s just down to my spider senses. The cost over runs, and delays all boil down to problems found on the ground. And perhaps the delays are down to “an abundance of caution”, but I can’t help wonder if so many problems have been found in everything from basic design thru to launch, before it comes close to launching, what faults might become evident once the thing becomes space bound?

    I hope that I am wrong, we need this telescope, and if it works as designed will open previously closed horizons, but man, I have huge reservations.

  • JhonB

    Hey, Now they can blame the delays on the Ariane 5 and not their own issues. Probably the Ariane 5 will be ready to launch and something else will go wrong.

  • Col Beausabre

    Next – Hurricane topples Ariane with JBST aboard……

  • Jay

    Don’t jinx it Col. Beausabre! It is rare for French Guiana to get hit by a hurricane. It is like Curaçao, they never get hit, and the hurricanes go north into the Caribbean. It does rain a lot there.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Bob, can you remind me what each side offered in the barter to launch JWST?

  • Ray Van Dune: The deal was the same with Hubble, though what Europe provided was different. They launch Webb and get a guaranteed percentage of observation time per year on the telescope for Europeans.

  • Jeff Wright

    Hubble was simple in comparison. Maybe the Ariane folks are missing another rag?

  • Edward

    Lee Stevenson wrote: “I also get ‘bad vibes’ from the James Webb… And I don’t think it’s just down to my spider senses.

    There are a few things that are new or larger than have ever been tried before, so some trepidation is natural. Fortunately, NASA likes to test and verify before launch, and problems with some of these new items are responsible for a portion of the delays and cost overruns. These verifications should help assure us all that Webb will work properly as long as it reaches its operational orbit. Meanwhile, I have my fingers crossed for luck, too.

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