Dec 21, 2021 Update: NASA says JWST will launch on Dec 25, 2021 at 6:20 AM CST

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. - Carl Sagan

Dec 21, 2021 Update: NASA says JWST will launch on Dec 25, 2021 at 6:20 AM CST

A great caption would be “I didn’t realize we had this option for deployment”
Image credit: tweet from Daniel@sciencesocks

At a 2 PM CST Dec 21 press conference, NASA says JWST is ready to launch on Dec 24 but then hours later said due to high-altitude winds the launch is delayed one more day to Saturday, December 25. The communication issue where there are some data drop-outs between the telescope and the ground support still lingers but is not a “show-stopper” for launch.

I recently watched an Angry Astronaut video where he said an audit of the telescope a few years back only gave JWST an 80% chance of success. That pessimistic estimation was after some incorrect solvent was used to clean the thrusters on the telescope. Those thrusters had to be replaced. Then the planned “shake” test loosened and dislodged numerous screws in the sun shield. This gave people a lot of concern. Some of those screws still have never been found. The recent processing problems down in French Guiana began to increased my concern again. Your can watch this excellent summary from Launch Pad Astronomy which goes into the detail on the recent issues. After watching the video, I feel a little better about the recent issues. The piece of equipment that caused the “jarring issue” with the telescope was a spring loaded ring under the telescope, not a cable snapping while they were lifting the telescope. The communication issue is coming from multiple 100 foot long cables coming down the rocket from the telescope to ground support equipment, not just a single 6 foot ethernet cable. That makes me feel more confident of success.

JWST is possibly the riskiest science mission NASA has ever tried. But with great risk, comes great reward. My hope is that JWST will be one of the greatest achievements of NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. Get those fingers crossed for early morning December 25.

The telescope is encapsulated in its fairing, roll out of the rocket is scheduled two days before launch on Dec. 23. NASA TV coverage on Dec 25 starts at 2 AM CST with the fueling of the Arianne rocket. Launch coverage starts at 5AM for the 6:20 AM launch. Good luck JWST! It will be a nail biting launch and 30 days of deployment while traveling to the L2 Lagrange point.

Ad Astra, Jim M.

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