Friday, 20 April, 2018

NASA Delays James Webb Space Telescope, Costs May Exceed $8 Billion

An artist's representation of the completed James Webb Space Telescope An artist’s representation of the completed James Webb Space Telescope Northrop Grumman
Grady Vargas | 29 March, 2018, 02:28

Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA's Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. NASA will only ever have one opportunity to safely launch and deploy the Webb telescope.

"This is the largest global space science project in American history", said NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot. Despite the delay, NASA explains that substantial progress has been made, including a completion of all of the flight hardware.

The JWST consists of two separate elements: the optical telescope element, or OTE, and the spacecraft element to which the OTE is attached. "These tests will take a few months to complete", NASA now reports. In early 2018, the OTE was flown by a C-5 aircraft to California for integration and testing with the spacecraft element. A very big heat shield, the size of a tennis court, made of five extremely thin and fragile layers, must also unfold unhindered after arriving in its orbit. The spacecraft also carries solar panels and batteries for power, radio communications and propulsion systems, and the avionics/on-board computer system. However, fast forward to 2017 and the Webb telescope is still Earth-bound.

Previously, the revised launch window for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope was scheduled in 2019, which has now targeted for about May 2020, after the organization attempted an individual assessment of all remaining tasks designed for the highly intricate space observatory. NASA developed the room telescope in 2 components: the telescope itself and also a significant, hard sunlight guard that will certainly safeguard the observatory's delicate tools from the sunlight.

"Webb is the highest priority project for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, and the largest global space science project in US history", said Robert Lightfoot, acting NASA Administrator. In 2011, Congress imposed a cost cap of $8 billion, rather than cancel the project after several prior cost adjustments and schedule changes. NASA has also commissioned an independent review of the project led by NASA veteran Thomas Young. "If JWST needs more funding than the $8 billion, it will take a reauthorization from Congress".

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"We have one shot to get this right before going into space", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa's science mission directorate.

NASA is also setting up an external, independent review board, which it says will "bolster confidence" in the agency's approach to completing the final battery of tests, as well as the forthcoming launch campaign, commissioning stage, and deployment sequence.

Officials cited the extra time engineers needed to complete integration of the observatories components and then test them. "We don't want to make any decision to make that mission's success less likely or put any risks out there".

"With those larger telescopes, we'll be able to look for telltale signs in the atmospheres of those planets that might tell us what the planets are made of, and perhaps even whether they have the kinds of gases in their atmospheres that, on Earth, are an indication of life", Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters, said during a news conference today (March 28).

James Webb Space Telescope will be stationed at around 1.5 million kilometers from where its 6.5-meter mirror along with four science instruments fixed under the sun shield will enable the astronomers to see deep into the universe. He planned to start discussions later in the day at the National Academies with astronomy committees meeting for Space Science Week there.

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