NASA says that it will delay the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope until May 2020. This will delay the launch of the telescope by more than a year.
NASA says that this delay is due to the need for more testing in the telescope's systems.
Delays Of The James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope is no stranger to delays, as NASA has been working on it for two decades. This current delay could cause the space agency to go over the telescope's $8.8 billion Congress mandated cap. Going over the cap would mean that NASA would have to ask lawmakers for more money to complete the telescope.
Construction and testing of the telescope's primary mirror and instruments are already complete. They were set to be added to the rest of the telescope in February by the main contractor Northrop Grumman. The Government Accountability Office then released a report showing that the construction had fallen behind.
Webb's sunshield, which is the size of a tennis court, was torn while it was being tested. These fixes delayed the project. In the press release, NASA states that the flight hardware is now complete, but that the agency will have to refocus efforts to finish building the space telescope.
70 Percent Confidence
During the press conference announcing the delay of the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA said that it was 70 percent confident that it will meet the May 2020 launch date. It also said that there were a number of mistakes that occurred while the telescope was being put together at Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman reportedly has people working on the telescope for 24 hours a day to be able to finish it on time. To finish the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA will also be establishing an external Independent Review Board (IRB) to establish a more concrete launch date for the project. This is the second board established by NASA, with the first being the Standing Review Board that had already indicated that the project needed to be delayed.
Unlike the Hubble Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope will not be sitting in low-Earth orbit. Instead, it will sit beyond the orbit of the Moon, and be kept cool to nearly absolute zero by the sunshield. This position would allow it to view the first stars and galaxies of the universe. It will also have seven times the light collecting power of the Hubble telescope.