NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is after all scheduled to launch on 18th December 2021. The launch is on an Ariane 5 from French Guiana after years of development delays.
Following made the announcement on 8th September that they have made a selection of the date – 18th December 2021 as the formal beset launch date for the giant space observatory.
ESA is delivering the launch as part of its support to the NASA-led mission in trade for a share of observing time.
The set date (18.09.2021) is a little later than previously predicted. NASA had been marketing a launch willingness date of 31st October 2021. However, the launch would take place after two Ariane 5 launches. These launches are set apart for nearly two months. One, taking two communications satellites, took schedule on 30th July last month.
Arianespace mentions that the second, carrying the following, is now set for 22nd October, instead of late September as earlier estimated.
- SES-17 satellite
- Syracuse-4A satellite
The 30th of July launch was the first for the Ariane 5 in almost a year to correct matters with the disconnection of the vehicle’s payload fairing seen in two launches –
- February 2020
- August 2020
On the above launches, the release of the fairing imparted loads on the payload stack higher than anticipated. However, it did not harm the satellites.
In a webinar on 6th September by the Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council, Vivian Quenet says –
- The July launch did not feel the same payload fairing matters seen on the two 2020 Ariane 5 launches.
Vivian Quenet is the managing director and head of sales in the Asia-Pacific region for Arianespace.
JWST itself is getting prepared for shipment from a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California to French Guiana. In an announcement on 26th August 2021, NASA mentions that it had done the final testing of the spacecraft. In addition, the spacecraft is now in the process of packaging for shipment. The telescope will be carried by ship, via the Panama Canal, to French Guiana, arriving in October to start final launch arrangements.