NASA delays its deep-space telescope launch until May 2020

29 March, 2018, 02:28 | Author: Harriet Bell
  • NASA Delays Launch of James Webb Space Telescope to 2020

"We have briefed the congressional staff about the likelihood of passing this breach mark, and informed them that the observatory is complete", NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said.

Testing the hardware on the observatory's telescope and spacecraft modules demonstrate that these systems individually meet their requirements. The joining of the telescope and science payload element to the spacecraft element this year will be a "pivotal" milestone for the observatory, says NASA.

NASA has begun the final integration and testing phases for the Webb telescope and formed an independent review board to assess the telescope's testing, launch, commissioning and deployment efforts and offer recommendations for the agency to set a specific time frame for the spacecraft's launch.

The launch of the telescope was scheduled for 2019, but will be pushed back to May 2020, due to findings from the project's Standing Review Board, NASA announced. An assessment from both will be delivered to Congress this summer, NASA said. Nasa will need to negotiate a new launch date with the European Space Agency, which runs the spaceport in French Guiana where the telescope is supposed to lift off. The cost estimate will be provided by NASA that may surpass the projected development cost as $8 billion, right after deciding the new launching readiness date. Additional steps to address project challenges include increasing NASA engineering oversight, personnel changes, and new management reporting structures. "The spacecraft element consists of the tennis-court-sized sunshield, designed by Northrop Grumman, and the spacecraft bus, which houses the flight avionics, power system, and solar panels".

The structures are created to fold up origami-style to fit within the Ariane 5 rocket's nose cone, then perform a high-risk deployment in orbit.

Unlike Hubble, which was serviced regularly by space shuttle astronauts, Webb will orbit the sun at a point about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth - unreachable in case of a breakdown.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, added: "Considering the investment NASA and our worldwide partners have made, we want to proceed systematically through these last tests, with the additional time necessary, to be ready for a May 2020 launch".

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NASA held a media teleconference Tuesday to discuss the status of the long-awaited James Webb Space Telescope. "It's just a matter of putting the two halves together and getting the testing done of the total observatory".

The spacecraft module will next undergo environmental testing, subjecting it to the vibrational, acoustic and thermal environments it will experience during its launch and operations. Over the years, it was built, assembled and tested at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before being completed last year.

But those delays, engineers stress, are necessary to ensure the massive telescope will work as expected - as needed - the first time.

ESA is providing the Ariane 5 as part of its scientific collaboration.

It's a good thing the Hubble Space Telescope has managed to keep on bringing us deep space imagery well beyond its expected lifespan, because its successor is taking its sweet time in getting ready to relieve it of duty.

JWST is the most ambitious and complex space science telescope ever constructed.

The announcement was made on Tuesday by NASA after analysing the remaining tasks for the highly complex space observatory.

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