James Webb Space Telescope to Launch in 2020 Now

NASA technicians lift the telescope into a clean room using a crane in April 2017

The mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope are designed to peer at the Universe's first stars. Credit Desiree Stover NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is due to succeed Hubble, continues to accumulate delays and additional costs.

The space agency announced Tuesday that the launch of the JWST - the huge, complex tool meant to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope - has been delayed by almost a year.

Such features have a price and the USA 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". NASA has already spent $7.3 billion on the project, so to kill the space telescope now, after 20 years, would be to waste all that money not to mention conceding our space leadership to the ESA and China.

While the telescope's individual components meet their requirements, contractor Northrop Grumman needs more time to test them, integrate them together and do environmental testing. A protective sun shade around the collector will open up in space to almost the size of a tennis court. Nasa is already weighing cost-cutting measures for the mission, which was recently projected to cost 12 per cent more than its budget.

Earlier, we've been talking about the fact that the James Webb Space Telescope might face big development delays.

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

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With at least $8 billion and the hopes of astrophysicists around the world riding on a successful mission, NASA has pushed back the launch again, just six months after announcing the previous delay. NASA is also establishing an Independent Review Board that will be led by former NASA center director and aerospace executive Tom Young, who has served on many similar reviews of agency programs in the past.

NASA touts the innovative tech put into the telescope, which reportedly includes a mirror made of 18 separate movable segments made of lightweight beryllium. The JWST's creators had to invent, among other things, a main mirror and a heat shield that could unfold like origami in orbit.

Northrop staff are now working 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, but can not work on enough parts simultaneously to stay on schedule.

The agency must set a more precise launch date in the coming months.

There are other problems, too.

For the first time in the project's history, both elements are at the same facility in Redondo Beach, California, for integration and testing. In October, engineers discovered several tears in the sunshield caused by a "workmanship error". This board's findings will help to solidify the need for additional testing, as well as help to lay out the final plan for integration, testing, commissioning, and spacecraft deployment. The Space Telescope Science Institute later announced the deadline would be pushed back to no earlier than February 1, 2019.

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When it eventually goes into space, it will search of the very first stars to shine in the Universe.

NASA and its partner, the European Space Agency, will firm up a new launch date, now tentatively targeted for May 2020 from French Guiana.

Well, still now NASA has not evaluated the extra cost which the agency can face this delay.

He noted that JWST is far more technically complex that WFIRST, which uses an optical system donated by the National Reconnaissance Office and without major deployable systems like the sunshield.

"WFIRST is not likely to develop the cost problems of the same magnitude as JWST", Morse says.

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