NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is Delayed Yet Again 

Early this week, NASA officials announced that the James Webb Space Telescope, their most eagerly anticipated project, has been delayed yet again. They also confirmed speculation that the project is set to exceed its initial $8 billion cost. 

This is the second delay the mission has faced. It was initially scheduled to launch in October of 2018 but was pushed back to May or June of 2019 due to technological issues. Further problems have pushed the launch back even further, with agency representatives estimating that it could occur in May or June of 2020. The agency needs to conduct a few extra studies on the craft before a specific date can be confirmed. 

The first delay was caused by problems to the sunshield, which caused it to slip. Developers have been studying these faults ever since and need more time to get a better grasp on the specific reason for those issues. While they do know that some of these problems have been caused by thruster contamination, they do not know how that occurred or how to prevent it from happening again. 

Another issue the developers face is understanding why the deployment and refolding of the sunshield took so long in the last test. It took twice as much time as researchers had anticipated, which could have disastrous results when it is launched. There are two more sunshield tests scheduled before the craft can be launched. Researchers are working on improving the membrane itself, as well as making changes to the way the springs operate. 

Agency officials did acknowledge that the project is going to go well over its initial cost estimates but declined to say by how much. They did tell the media that certain members of Congress have been alerted about this cost increase, and meetings are scheduled to discuss any concerns. 

NASA has formed an independent review board whose mandate is to review the entire James Webb Space Telescope project. If there are any areas where improvement could be made, or where board members can identify funds being wasted, the commission is to report this back to NASA as well as Congress. 

Officials did say that they were confident that these additional upgrades are going to increase the level of precision and accuracy the James Webb Space Telescope is capable of. This is likely to have widespread benefits to many avenues of research. As a result, the scientific community is hoping these delays are worth the improvements. 

(Space http://spacenews.com/nasa-delays-jwst-launch-to-2020/)