Adverse weather conditions at the launch site on South America’s northeastern coast has prompted NASA to delay the launch of its James Webb Space Telescope, which is supposed to see further than ever into the universe, until at least Christmas Day, the space agency announced on Tuesday.
According to NASA, the 24-hour weather delay at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana follows a two-day delay for launch from December 22 due to electronic communications issues between the launch vehicle and its payload.
On December 17, the powerful infrared telescope was successfully encapsulated within the cargo bay of an Ariane 5 rocket. On Saturday, the rocket was scheduled to be launched between 7:20 a.m. and 7:52 a.m. EST (1220-1253 GMT).
The $9 billion gadget will be released from the rocket after a 26-minute flight into space if everything goes according to plan.
The Webb telescope will then take a month to go to its final destination in solar orbit, which is nearly 1 million miles from Earth and four times the distance between the moon and Earth.
The Hubble Space Telescope, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, currently orbits the Earth at a distance of 340,000 miles.
Webb is nearly 100 times more sensitive than Hubble and is intended to expand astronomers’ understanding of the cosmos and our role in it. It is named after former NASA’s chief for most of the 1960s, James E. Webb.