NASA delays James Webb space telescope December 18 launch date over an ‘incident’ during launch prep phase

NASA’s next-gen James Webb space telescope has been keeping fingers crossed for quite some time, as scientists, astronomers and space enthusiasts around the world wait for the launch of what is the space agency’s most complex project to date. In a recent status update, NASA came forward with some worrying news, noting that an “incident” occurred during the telescope’s launch preparations phase that’s now forced it to delay the final launch by at least a few days as additional testing was required to assess for any damage.

On the bright side, a four-day delay seems insignificant when the most advanced space telescope in the world has already missed its launch date by 14 years and gone way over budget. However, even a slight hitch at this stage can be potentially jeopardizing for a project as complex as the JWST.

In a recent blog update, NASA shared that the telescope, currently residing at a satellite preparation facility in French Guiana, was being attached to the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket by technicians when the incident took place.

A vibration occurred throughout the observatory following a “sudden, unexpected” release of a clamp band designed to secure the telescope with the launch vehicle adapter. Consequently, NASA set up an anomaly review board “immediately” to investigate and says that additional testing will now be performed to determine if any components of the telescopes were damaged.

For now, the space agency has pushed the launch date to “no earlier than Dec. 22” from December 18 and said that it would share more details about the incident at the end of this week. Here’s hoping the telescope can finally make it to space before the end of 2021.