NASA and the company in charge of the launch confirmed on Saturday that the much-delayed launch of the James Webb space telescope will take place on December 24.
The project, which began in 1989, was originally expected to deploy the instrument – the largest and most powerful telescope ever launched into space – in the early 2000s.
But multiple problems forced delays and a tripling of the telescope’s original budget, resulting in a final cost of nearly US$10 billion (8.8 billion euros).
The Webb telescope was built in the United States and transported to its launch site in Kourou, French Guyana, this year, with a December 18 departure date planned.
However, new problems have forced two delays.
“The James Webb Space Telescope is confirmed for the target launch date of December 24,” tweeted launch company Arianespace, adding that it would go ahead at 12:20 GMT (12:20 UTC) on that day.
Confirming the launch date, NASA tweeted that the telescope was “encapsulated inside its @Ariane5 rocket fairing”.
It will follow in the footsteps of the legendary Hubble telescope, but will be much further away from the Sun. It is hoped that it will reveal what the Universe looked like even closer to its birth nearly 14 billion years ago.
The new telescope is named after the late James E. Webb, who led NASA during its formative years in the 1960s.
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