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James Webb Space Telescope launch pushed back to October 2021

The primary mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope
The primary mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope Chris GUNN NASA/AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

NASA on Thursday postponed the launch of its $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope from March next year to October 31, 2021, blaming the pandemic and other technical challenges.

The telescope, first conceived in the 1990s, was initially to be launched in the 2000s, but its main maker Northrop Grumman has faced numerous development problems that have doubled its cost.

"Webb is the world's most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we've worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

After it is launched from French Guiana, Webb will journey a million miles from Earth, away from the Sun, before assuming its orbit.

It will then unfold a five-layered sunshield until it reaches the size of a tennis court, and deploy a 6.5-meter (21-foot) mirror designed to detect the faint light of far-away stars and galaxies.

Its mission is to help resolve fundamental questions about the origins of the cosmos.

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