Launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope delayed another year | Tech News
NASA’s next planet-hunting space telescope has been delayed again. Yes, again. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has faced a multitude of delays and budget overruns over the last two decades, and its new intended launch date is 30 March, 2021.
Its previous launch date, which NASA announced in March, was May 2020. Since the project began in 1996, its scope has widened and its budget has ballooned from $0.5 billion to $9.6 billion. Because of the budget overrun, Congress will have to re-approve the increase in spending if it is to eventually launch, said NASA associate administrator Stephen Jurczyk in a 27 June press conference.
These changes are in response to a report from an independent review board established by NASA to assess JWST’s progress. “There are no small JWST integration and test problems,” read the report. With a project this complex, every problem becomes a big one. “A very small human error or test anomaly can impact the schedule by months and the cost by tens of millions of dollars,” the report says.
It highlighted a series of problems both small and large, including “excessive optimism” in the previous timelines for building and testing the telescope, which have led to repeated delays and cost overruns.
The March 2021 launch date assumes that all of the review board’s recommendations will be implemented, preventing further problems or solving them before they impact the schedule, said Tom Young, the chair of the review board. Any further problems may push the launch date even further.
JWST is NASA’s planned successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Its mirror is much bigger than Hubble’s, which will allow it able to peer deeper into the early universe and capture data on the formation of the first stars and galaxies.
The space telescope is planned to be primarily an exoplanet hunter. It is expected to find thousands of worlds beyond our solar system, and its improved sensitivity will allow us to see the atmospheres of some of those planets and even search for signs of life on other worlds.
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