Delayed a year by a launch failure, the coronavirus pandemic and a stretch of stiff upper level winds this summer, an Italian-made Vega rocket vaulted into orbit from French Guiana on Wednesday night and deployed 53 small satellites from 13 countries to punctuate a flawless return to flight mission.
NASA officials said Thursday the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed seven months to Oct. 31, 2021, a schedule slip that takes into account work slowdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the amount of testing required on the observatory before its shipment to French Guiana for liftoff on a European Ariane 5 rocket.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has been hoisted on top of its United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral for liftoff this month, passing a major pre-launch milestone after teams repaired a small leak on the launch vehicle and overcame delays caused by coronavirus cases among staff working on the mission.
A team of 18 Argentine engineers is quarantining in Florida this week after arriving from Buenos Aires, observing coronavirus health restrictions before beginning operations at Cape Canaveral next week to ready Argentina’s second radar Earth observation satellite for liftoff as soon as July 25 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
A nearly three-month stoppage of on-site work due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus at NASA’s Marshall Space Fight Center in Alabama is expected to push back the launch of the IXPE X-ray astronomy satellite from May 2021 until some time later next year, a senior space agency official said.
After an unusual stretch of excessive high-altitude winds prevented launch from French Guiana of 53 small satellites on a Vega rocket in June — and no sign of a letup in winds in the coming days — Arianespace said Wednesday that the mission will be delayed to Aug. 17 to allow time for teams to recharge launcher and payload batteries.