NASA Moves Webb Telescope Launch to May 2020

An artist's representation of the completed James Webb Space Telescope

Top officials said Tuesday that more time is needed to assemble and test the James Webb Space Telescope, which is considered a successor to the long-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Given that the launch is delayed until May 2020, it pushes the launch date of the telescope out to more than a year away. Hubble, which was the JWST of its time, was also beset by numerous technical delays and budget problems that resulted in its launch being delayed by several years before it eventually took to the skies. The agency expects to provide a confirmed schedule and cost estimate this summer. This new delay is caused by a combination of new issues as well as a better understanding of the severity of those previous problems. "We didn't know what that impact would be at the time" of the previous delay, he said, adding that the valves have since been refurbished and reinstalled.

Recent testing of the unfolding mechanisms revealed there was still work to be done. NASA and Northrop Grumman have identified fixes for these problems, but their repair has added months of delays to the project, and engineers can not be sure that more issues will not crop up during further testing.

This 2015 illustration provided by Northrop Grumman via NASA shows the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA is now establishing an external review board to be chaired by Tom Young, a former agency and Lockheed Martin official, to oversee the program's future progress.

Lightfoot on Tuesday said all of the telescope's flight hardware is now complete but added that issues brought to light with the spacecraft elements are forcing them to delay launch. The two halves of the 13,500-pound (6,100-kilogram) observatory still must be joined and the entire structure tested. However, after years of being under construction, the cost has ballooned to over $10 billion United States dollars that includes its launch and operational expenses. As per the new information, NASA will submit the new report to Congress very soon. Lightfoot said, "NASA has spent $7.3 billion so far".

The device will be later set for the environmental testing at the observatory contractor of the project, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California. Management of JWST at Northrop Grumman will now directly report to the company's president.

Because JWST, consisting of both integrated elements, has to be folded up in order to fit into the payload fairing of the European Space Agency's Ariane-5 rocket, a complex deployment sequence has to take place in the proper order.

The next-gen space telescope will now be released in 2020. The observatory was supposed to launch between March and June of 2019. JWST involves complex designs that have never been tested before, such as the enormous sunshield. "We're not going to be in a situation that we are with Webb, in which there's 10 miracles required", he said.

There is little doubt that the JWST will launch someday. Hubble is restricted in how deeply it can see in space - and therefore how far back in time. NASA wants to get it right, and that has led to the latest delay. The new target is approximately May 2020. He planned to start discussions later in the day at the National Academies with astronomy committees meeting for Space Science Week there. NASA's Kepler spacecraft used the same method to spot more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, a lot of them orbiting faint stars 300 to 3,000 light-years away.

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