Try to Contain Your Surprise. James Webb is Getting Delayed to 2020

Katie Ramirez
March 28, 2018

Neither Tess nor other joint missions will be impacted by the Webb delays, Zurbuchen said. The spacecraft element has a "tennis-court-sized" sunshield that has been designed by Northrop Grumman. Meanwhile, each unfolding and refolding of the sun shield has taken twice as long as expected, further delaying work.

Several tears, up to 4 inches long, developed in the five-layer sunshield and had to be repaired. Andrucyk said they're making modifications such as the installation of Kapton springs to ensure the cables remain tensioned and "doghouse" mechanical fixtures that constrain any slack the cables might still develop. According to NASA, the individual systems are all up to snuff, but testing revealed that they don't play together as well as they should. This will delay the launch of the telescope by more than a year. NASA has also commissioned an independent review of the project led by NASA veteran Thomas Young.

The agency did not say how much the delay would cost, but some estimates suggest that it could add a few hundred million dollars to the project.

Various small issues have arisen during testing and a Government Accountability Office report, like a cabling mishap that created a tear in the enormous folding sun shield.

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"Webb is the highest priority project for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, and the largest global space science project in U.S. history", Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said in a release. The two halves of the 13,500-pound (6,100-kilogram) observatory still must be joined and the entire structure tested. Congress has put the $8 billion cost cap into law every year since, including in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law last week. That panel's recommendations and NASA's own findings will be combined in a report to be delivered to Congress this summer. And in his most recent budget request, President Trump proposed scrapping the mission (for now, Congress has chose to keep funding it). Management of JWST at Northrop Grumman will now directly report to the company's president. 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. The observatory has seven times the light-collecting power of Hubble. The telescope's hardware is complete, but problems with the integration of the spacecraft with the observatory itself have come to light. JWST involves complex designs that have never been tested before, such as the enormous sunshield. "We want to make sure we know what's going on on a daily basis", he said. Now, the JWST delay risks compounding problems for WFIRST. Based on these reviews, NASA will decide on a more-specific launch target in the coming months.

Acting agency administrator Robert Lightfoot said that the outlook for additional delays emerged from an internal schedule review, and that a new date for the telescope's launch on an Ariane 5 rocket would be negotiated with the European Space Agency.

" This is the biggest worldwide space science task in USA background, and also we should make the effort essential to review its information extremely carefully to guarantee that we return on the right track and also get it exactly on the ground", Zurbuchen included.

Still, he mulled whether the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine should wait for data from Webb before finalizing the next decadal survey, which will set priorities for the 2030s and beyond.

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