The highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope is supposed to launch in October this year.
However, NASA announced in March that the launch of the space observatory will be moved to 2020.
James Webb Space Telescope To Launch March 30, 2021
The earlier postponement is already two years past the original launch date, but the U.S. space agency made an announcement on June 28 revealing that the launch is rescheduled again. The new launch date is now March 30, 2021.
The decision was made after members of the Independent Review Board, which NASA established to assess the progress on the telescope, unanimously recommended that that development of the observatory needs to continue. The IRB cited technical issues, which include human errors as among the factors that affected the development schedule.
NASA supports the assessment and guidance of the review board. Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that despite major challenges, the IRB and the U.S space agency both agree that the telescope will achieve mission success when the board's recommendations are implemented.
The new launch date is set to accommodate changes in schedules affected by environmental testing and work performance issues. The spacecraft's primary contractor, Northrop Grumman, faces technical challenges on the sunshield and propulsion system of the observatory.
With the updated launch date, the new lifecycle cost of the telescope is now at $9.66 billion. The new development cost, on the other hand, is estimated to be at $8.8 billion.
Worth The Cost And Wait?
Despite the cost and the long wait for the development and launch of the telescope, NASA hopes that the Webb could bring about many discoveries in the field of astronomy, which could help answer many questions about our cosmic origins.
"Webb should continue based on its extraordinary scientific potential and critical role in maintaining U.S. leadership in astronomy and astrophysics," said Tom Young, chair of the review board. "Ensuring every element of Webb functions properly before it gets to space is critical to its success."
The observatory is the formal successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA described the Webb as the premier observatory of the next decade.
"It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System," the U.S space agency said.
Photo: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope | Flickr