NASA delays launch of next-gen space telescope until 2020

29 March, 2018, 02:29 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • An artist's representation of the completed James Webb Space Telescope

When it stops working, that will be the end of the mission.

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. A enormous 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. But such delays ensure that engineers and scientists have the time they need to test and combine components, then test again. "Simply put, we have one shot to get this right before going into space". Lightfoot said, "NASA has spent $7.3 billion so far".

The collector of the telescope, that's the part that captures light that makes images, is more than five times the size of Hubble at almost 50 square feet. It would also probe the mysteries of black holes and seek out signs of life on planets orbiting distant suns. "That discussion requires more than just NASA's opinion". The JWST's creators had to invent, among other things, a main mirror and a heat shield that could unfold like origami in orbit. The journal Nature called the JWST "the telescope that ate astronomy". Once a new launch readiness date is determined, NASA said it will provide a cost estimate that may exceed the projected $8 billion development cost to complete the final phase of testing and prepare for launch.

Webb is an global project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. The spacecraft also carries solar panels and batteries for power, radio communications and propulsion systems, and the avionics/on-board computer system. Deploying and then stowing the sunshield took about twice as long as original expected, with two more "deploy and stow" operations yet to take place.

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According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, Northrop Grumman staff are working three shifts, 24 hours a day, to handle the issues.

The NASA authorities defined business modifications in work with the telescope, consisting of applying even more NASA oversight of the job at Northrop Grumman.

Further testing is scheduled at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in California, and NASA has established an external Independent Review Board to oversee the project. NASA will submit an official report to the Congress by late June citing the expenses and requirements of the project. This new delay is caused by a combination of new issues as well as a better understanding of the severity of those previous problems. The delays, when it comes to NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, are not rare. And astronomers who wish to use the telescope for research will now have until 2019 to submit proposals for experiments. It's possible that unlike Hubble, though, JWST will observe primarily in the infrared wavelengths.

The project, a joint endeavor with the European and Canadian space agencies, has already drawn scrutiny from lawmakers for its ballooning costs, given that its initial estimated budget was $3.5 billion. And in his most recent budget request, President Donald Trump proposed scrapping the mission (for now, Congress has made a decision to keep funding it). "We're not going to be in a situation where 10 miracles are required" technologically, as happened with the JWST, he said.

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