A Government Accountability Office report has revealed that the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope may be delayed beyond October 2021 due to issues with the Ariane 5 launch vehicle.
In a May 2021 GAO report examining the progress of the James Webb Space Telescope, it was revealed that Arianespace and the European Space Agency reported to NASA in March 2021 that issues with the Ariane 5 launch vehicle had been identified over the vehicle’s last two flights. Although the issues did not affect the successful deployment of the payloads, it was significant enough to ground the vehicle until a solution can be found.
Arianespace will be required to launch at least one Ariane 5 mission before the launch of James Webb. Despite a pair of flights currently scheduled for June and August, project officials have nonetheless assessed the likelihood of an October 21 launch date as highly unlikely.
In March 2018, the launch of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was slated for May 2020. A string of delays followed pushing the launch back to late 2020, then early 2021, and finally in July 2020, the launch received its most recent rescheduling pushing it out to October 2021 due to the global pandemic.
The most recent delay is, however, the first to not be directly attributed to the telescope itself.
Despite myriad delays and staggering cost overruns, the importance of the James Webb Space Telescope cannot be denied.
The telescope’s 6.5-meter primary mirror is the largest ever deployed in space. It will assist researchers and scientists answer the mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mystifying structures and origins of our universe.