NASA's James Webb Space Telescope launch delayed, possibly on 2021
New Delhi : There is delay, yet again! NASA of the United States has announced that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be launched on 30 March 2021, delaying the mission by a year. It will add another $800m to the cost of the craft, boosting it to $8.8bn. This extra cash will first have to be agreed by the US Congress, which in 2011 capped the cost of the JWST at $8bn.
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in February stated that the James Telescope was unlikely to meet its then launch date of 2019. Engineers at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in California who are involved in building the telescope had been struggling with a number of issues such being able to securely organize the craft’s huge 21 x 14 m sunshield with no tearing the ultrathin fabric.
Earlier in March, NASA announced that the launch would be delayed to May 2020 at the earliest and established an independent review board, chaired by NASA veteran Thomas Young, to inspect the impact of the delays. In the 63-page report, released yesterday, the independent review board found a number of technical issues including human errors to be the main reason behind the delay in the launch of JWST. The major errors include using the wrong solvent to clean fuel valves and not tightening the sunshield’s fasteners properly, which keep it rolled up before the craft reaches the destination.
The report offers a number of recommendations, which NASA already has implemented, including bringing in a “world-class” system engineer as a dedicated commission manager who has the experience and technical knowledge of the JWST’s design. “Webb is vital to the next generation of research beyond NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope,” notes NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Despite major challenges, the board and NASA unanimously agree that Webb will achieve mission success with the implementation of the board’s recommendations, many of which already are underway.”