How the James Webb launch could be dangerous – what could go wrong | Science | News

Both the rocket and its payload could end up in pieces or non-functional.

The first task technicians working in South America must meet today is launching the rocket.

They are using an Ariane 5, a two-stage European launch vehicle first developed for launch in 1996.

When the countdown at the Kourou spaceport ends, a controlled explosion will propel the 777-tonne rocket upwards.

The Ariane 5 has a good track record, with a chain of 83 successful launches between 2003 and 2017.

But of their 111 launches, engineers have recorded a total of five operating failures.

These are split between three official failures and two “partial”.

In 2002, the launch of the first Ariane 5 ECA variant failed when a booster fault made it veer off course.

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