James Webb Space Telescope cleared for launch on December 22
After years of setbacks, the James Webb Space Telescope will finally launch next month. NASA has given the green light to begin fueling the observatory for launch, after engineering teams found no sign of damage from an incident last week.
While attaching the telescope to the launch vehicle adapter, a clamp band released suddenly and unexpectedly, sending vibrations through the observatory. A review board led by NASA determined that additional testing needed to be conducted to ensure that no damage had been done to any components, shifting the launch window from December 18 to “no earlier than” December 22.
This additional testing has now been completed, and thankfully, the conclusion was that no components were damaged. As such, NASA removed the ambiguity of the launch window, setting a target of December 22 at 7:20 am EST. The observatory is currently being fueled ahead of launch.
The James Webb Space Telescope has seen many delays over the years, but the new launch date looks set to stick. Once it gets up into orbit, the observatory will peer deep into the cosmos with its infrared eyes, searching for clues to some of the most profound mysteries of the universe. Its main goals include studying the very first stars and galaxies that formed in the early universe, how galaxies evolve over time, how stars and planetary systems are born in dusty clouds, and what the composition of exoplanet atmospheres is like. That last point could even reveal biosignatures of extraterrestrial life.