Spacewatch: James Webb telescope finally ready for launch

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Nasa has completed the final tests of the James Webb space telescope and is now preparing it for transportation to the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

Webb is Nasa’s successor to the ageing Hubble space telescope. Work on it began way back in 1996. Back then, it was called the Next Generation space telescope. It was forecast to cost $500m (£363m) and was set for launch in 2007.

Webb is the world’s most complex space science observatory. It consists of a 6.5-metre mirror and a tennis-court-sized sunshield, all of which will be folded into the nose-cone of a European Space Agency Ariane 5 rocket for launch later this year.

Ensuring that it will unfold correctly once in space has generated a huge number of technical challenges, and this has led to many delays and a budget that has ballooned to about $10bn.

Now, with the successful completion of the final set of tests, there is nothing left to do but launch the telescope and see if it all works as planned. Once launched, Webb will take about a month to fly to its final orbit about 1.5m km (930,000 miles) away from Earth.

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