The world's most powerful space telescope and the successor to NASA's famed Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has had its launch date delayed again, this time until approximately May 2020.
But the cost of the project grew as the launch was consistently postponed, and in 2011 a massive replan was issued; Congress capped the telescope's budget at $8B, and a new launch date of 2018 was set.
In addition to the Standing Review Board, the space agency will assemble the Independent Review Board, an external group that will also look into the project. Nasa must then provide an update to Congress.
That was then. On Tuesday, senior officials at NASA announced yet another delay for the world-class instrument.
The delay will have ramifications beyond the JWST team.
Neither Tess nor other joint missions will be impacted by the Webb delays, Zurbuchen said. A big heat shield, the size of a tennis court, made of five extremely thin and fragile layers, must also unfold unhindered after arriving in its orbit. Not only did the thin, five-layer sun shield snag during the deployment, but technicians also found seven tears up to 10cm long within the material. Andrucyk said they're making modifications such as the installation of Kapton springs to ensure the cables remain tensioned and "doghouse" mechanical fixtures that constrain any slack the cables might still develop.
Delays in testing the sunshield and problems with the in-space propulsion system have slowed work. "We were rather optimistic in how we projected an [integration and testing] schedule", said Andrucyk. This Independent Review Board (IRB) will be led by Thomas Young, "a highly respected person at NASA and in this industry", the agency said in a statement.
James Webb Space Telescope was proposed more than two decades ago and the estimated cost of the project was quoted at $1 billion Dollars that was sanctioned by the Congress.
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The capacity for even more concerns occurred in February, when a record from the United States Government Accountability Office alerted that the telescope dealt with a high chance of even more hold-ups that might press the telescope past its spending plan cap. "All the observatory's flight hardware is now complete, however, the issues brought to light with the spacecraft element are prompting us to take the necessary steps to refocus our efforts on the completion of this ambitious and complex observatory". If that happens, NASA will need to receive renewed authorization from Congress to move forward.
For now, all of us will have to wait and see as NASA tries to get the project back on track and into space.
The two parts of the spacecraft-the telescope and instrument package and the spacecraft bus with sunshield-are waiting to be melded together at the facility of prime contractor Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. Northrop Grumman's project manager for Webb will report directly to C-suite level executives at the company "to help remove roadblocks to success within the company", the officials said. After encountering more technical challenges and struggles with its testing processes, NASA said, the telescope now would launch no earlier than May 2020.
Following a successful March 15 review of the spacecraft's launch readiness, TESS will be fueled and encapsulated within the payload fairing of its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. "We're not going to be in a situation where 10 miracles are required" technologically, as happened with the JWST, he said.
There is little doubt that the JWST will launch someday.
The delay could also affect the next astrophysics decadal survey, the report prepared by the astronomy community once per decade to determine priorities for space and ground-based observatories. NASA's new target of May 2020 is still just an estimate.
" This is the biggest worldwide space science task in USA background, and also we should make the effort essential to review its information extremely carefully to guarantee that we return on the right track and also get it exactly on the ground", Zurbuchen included.