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NASA delays next-generation space telescope until 2020

Nasa has delayed the launch of its ‘Super Hubble’ space telescope that could spot alien life.

Officials say they need more time to assemble and test the James Webb Space Telescope, which is now set to fly in 2020.

The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

Originally, the observatory was supposed to fly this year, but then in autumn the space agency pushed the launch back to 2019 and then today announced it would not fly until 2020.

 

Officials say they need more time to assemble and test the James Webb Space Telescope (pictured), which is now set to fly in 2020 

Nasa and its partner, the European Space Agency, will work together to firm up a new launch date.

Once a new date is determined, Nasa says it will provide a new cost estimate.

Officials say the cost may exceed the $8 billion (£5.6 billion) program cap set by Congress. The space agency has already poured $7 billion (£5 billion) into the telescope.

The James Webb telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

In January the telescope had been successfully tested in a giant vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Centre – proving it will function in deep space.

The telescope went through 100 days of cryogenic testing where temperatures dipped hundreds of degrees below the freezing point to ensure it functioned in extreme cold.

‘The successful completion of this test represents a very significant milestone for JWST’, said Bill Ochs, the telescope project manager at the time.

The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope

The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope

WHAT IS THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE?

The James Webb telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius). 

The James Webb telescope has been described as a 'time machine' that could help unravel the secrets of our universe

The James Webb telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that could help unravel the secrets of our universe

Officials say the cost may exceed the $8 billion (£5.6 billion) program cap set by Congress. The space agency has already poured $7 billion (£5 billion) into the telescope. 

When it is launched in 2020, it will be the world’s biggest and most powerful telescope, capable of peering back 200 million years after the Big Bang.

In January the telescope had been successfully tested in a giant vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Centre – proving it will function in deep space. 

The telescope went through 100 days of cryogenic testing where temperatures dipped hundreds of degrees below the freezing point to ensure it functioned in extreme cold. 

‘It verified the alignment of the telescope to the science instruments, the image quality of the telescope as well as confirming the thermal performance of the telescope’, he said, writes CBS News.

‘We now have verified that Nasa and its partners have an outstanding telescope and a spectacular set of science instruments’, he said.

To detect infrared light from faraway objects, the telescope must be kept very cold, according to Nasa.

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius). 

During additional tests last year, the 18 gold primary mirror segments were tested as well, to ensure they act as a single mirror.

The test even managed to continue as Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas coast.

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin ¿ about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius)

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius)

Inside the chamber, the team monitored the telescope using thermal sensors and specialised cameras, to track the temperature and the physical position as each component moved.

‘After 15 years of planning, chamber refurbishment, hundreds of hours of risk-reduction testing, the dedication of more than 100 individuals through more than 90 days of testing, and surviving Hurricane Harvey, the OTIS cryogenic test has been an outstanding success,’ said Dr Ochs.

The engineers began cooling the chamber on July 20 after removing the air.

The process that took roughly 30 days; then the telescope remained in a cryo-stable state for another 30 days. 

The team began to warm the chamber back up on September 27, before pumping air back in.

Then, on November 18, they unsealed the door.

‘With an integrated team from all corners of the country, we were able to create deep space in our chamber and confirm that Webb can perform flawlessly as it observes the coldest corners of the universe,’ said Jonathan Homan, project manager for Webb’s cryogenic testing at Johnson.

‘I expect [Webb] to be successful, as it journeys to Lagrange point 2 [after launch] and explores the origins of solar systems, galaxies, and has the chance to change our understanding of our universe.’ 

In January the telescope had been successfully tested in a giant vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Centre - proving it will function in deep space

In January the telescope had been successfully tested in a giant vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Centre – proving it will function in deep space

 

 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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