NASA is working on its next major astronomical observatory called the James Webb Space Telescope. This new telescope is considered the successor to the Hubble Telescope and its task is to help NASA, and its scientists, view far away objects in space for the purpose of knowing how the universe evolved in the last billion years. The project has been on hold for quite some time, but things are about to change as it has passed a critical design review this month. This means the way for construction has been paved, and we should expect it to be launched in 2018.
Already, parts have been shipped to construct the $8.8 billion Space Telescope, which accounts for a large amount of cash from NASA's budgetary resources for projects such as astronomy and anything related. Redondo Beach, California-based Northrop Grumman is leading the design and development efforts.
"This is the last major element-level critical design review of the program," said Richard Lynch, NASA Spacecraft Bus Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "What that means is all of the designs are complete for the Webb and there are no major designs left to do."
NASA's hope is that Webb will provide a plethora of information that would likely pay dividends for the sacrifices made by the space agency to keep the observatory going. NASA pulled out the ExoMars project and other scientific projects in Europe due to cost overruns. If everything goes according to plan, the James Webb Space Telescope will solves these issues in the long run.
The James Webb Space Telescope will also be used for planet hunting, which is a similar duty assigned to the Kepler Space Telescope. It will also use data already gathered by Kepler.
"While the spacecraft that carries the science payload for Webb may not be as glamorous as the telescope, it's the heart that enables the whole mission," said Eric Smith, acting program director and program scientist for the Webb Telescope at NASA headquarters in Washington. "By providing many services including telescope pointing and communication with Earth, the spacecraft is our high tech infrastructure empowering scientific discovery."
According to NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful of its kind ever created, and should do a better job than Hubble in locating distant objects.