Launch of James Webb Space Telescope delayed until possibly 2020

29 March, 2018, 02:27 | Author: Tracy Craig
  • Officials say they need more time to assemble and test the James Webb Space Telescope, which is now set to fly in 2020

"Webb is the highest priority project for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, and the largest global space science project in US history", acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in the release.

"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", Lightfoot said.

Add to that the spacecraft's complex transition from its launch configuration, during which its large sunshield and primary mirror will be folded up, to its final design, with a 6.5-meter primary mirror (Hubble's is just over 2 meters) and a sunshield spanning almost 70 x 47 feet (21 x 14 meters), and testing the telescope's many components becomes vital.

Next stage Late previous year, NASA said that the JWST's telescope and scientific instrument payload had passed cryogenic tests at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, after which the equipment was delivered to the Redondo Beach site for spacecraft integration.

NASA is now establishing an Independent Review Board led by Thomas Young, who has extensive experience both with NASA and the spaceflight industry. Since then, most of the spacecraft's manufacturing and testing has proceeded on schedule, but more recent challenges as the entire project comes together have caused additional delays.

Webb is an worldwide project led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

Such features have a price and the U.S. space agency warned on Tuesday that "once the precise launch date has been determined, NASA will provide an estimate of development costs that are likely to exceed the $ 8 billion forecast". In response, NASA will increase its engineering oversight, make some personnel changes, and institute new management reporting structures that will involve daily progress reports from Northrop Grumman. And there's what nasa calls the spacecraft element, which consists of a five-layer, tennis-court-sized sun shield that will help Webb cool down enough to work, along with a spacecraft bus, which will house the observatory's computer systems and solar panels.

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The James Webb Space Telescope will blast off from French Guiana before reaching its final destination about a million miles away from Earth. "Webb is a really complex machine and rigorous testing is required to have a high confidence of success", Zurbuchen said.

The James Webb Space Telescope, whose total cost is expected to exceed $ 9 billion, will not be launched until May 2020, NASA recently announced.

As for what's next, the Webb will undergo environmental testing, and will be subjected to vibrational, acoustic and thermal environments to simulate its launch and actual operations. These tests will take a few months to complete. If it surpasses its current $8.8 billion budget, the project will have to be re-approved by the US Congress, says Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

ESA is providing the Ariane 5 as part of its scientific collaboration. The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest space telescope ever built.

NASA initially meant to release the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 however postponed it up until 2019 last September as a result of hold-ups in the observatory's setting up. The Space Telescope Science Institute later announced the deadline would be pushed back to no earlier than February 1, 2019.

For now, all of us will have to wait and see as NASA tries to get the project back on track and into space.



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