NASA prepares for Christmas Day launch of James Webb telescope

The launch is set for 7:20 a.m. Saturday from French Guiana

The James Webb Telescope sits atop the Ariane 5 rocket in French Guiana ahead of its launch on Christmas Day. (NASA, NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA is hoping for a successful Christmas Day launch of the successor to the Hubble Telescope.

The James Webb Telescope is scheduled to lift off on a European Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana at 7:20 a.m. Saturday.

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The $10 billion infrared observatory is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, in orbit since 1990. The telescope is considered to be the biggest and most powerful science observatory ever built for space.

Years of cost overruns and other issues delayed the launch of the telescope to replace the aging but still serviceable Hubble.

The rocket was supposed to launch on Christmas Eve. On Tuesday at a news conference, NASA officials said the rocket and telescope were in good shape, but dangerously high upper-level winds were keeping the rocket on the pad an extra day.

Those high winds could have forced the rocket off-course or even damaged or destroyed it.

After the launch, the telescope will make a 30-day, million-mile journey to its position orbiting the sun at a spot called the second Lagrange point. This will allow the telescope to stay in line with Earth as it moves around the sun. The observatory has a large sunshield to protect it from the light and heat of the sun.

Even though it will take only 30 days to get to L2, it will take six months for the telescope to get set up and begin its mission.

To learn more about the James Webb Telescope, head to the NASA website.

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Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.