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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 28 2018, @04:53AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the no-myopics-lens-this-time dept.

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been delayed yet again, due to damage to the spacecraft's thrusters, sunshield, and tension cables:

The slip is not exactly surprising, even though construction and testing of Webb's primary mirror and scientific instruments—its riskiest, most expensive elements—is already complete. These components were delivered in early February to Webb's prime contractor, the aerospace company Northrop Grumman, for further testing and integration with the rest of the telescope. But later that month a report from the Government Accountability Office warned that the company had fallen behind schedule on the supposedly easier parts of the observatory. Valves on the spacecraft's thrusters had sprung leaks after being improperly cleaned, and replacing them had taken the better part of a year. Webb's tennis-court-sized, five-layered folding "sunshield" had also been torn during a test as it unfurled, requiring time-consuming failure analyses and repairs.

NASA will also establish an external Independent Review Board to validate assessments of the telescope's testing:

NASA is establishing an external Independent Review Board (IRB), chaired by Thomas Young, a highly respected NASA and industry veteran who is often called on to chair advisory committees and analyze organizational and technical issues. The IRB findings, which will complement the [Standing Review Board] data, are expected to bolster confidence in NASA's approach to completing the final integration and test phase of the mission, the launch campaign, commissioning, as well as the entire deployment sequence. Both boards' findings and recommendations, as well as the project's input, will be considered by NASA as it defines a more specific launch time frame. NASA will then provide its assessment in a report to Congress this summer.

NASA will work with its partner, ESA (European Space Agency), on a new launch readiness date for the Ariane 5 vehicle that will launch Webb into space. Once a new launch readiness date is determined, NASA will provide a cost estimate that may exceed the projected $8 billion development cost to complete the final phase of testing and prepare for launch. Additional steps to address project challenges include increasing NASA engineering oversight, personnel changes, and new management reporting structures.

NASA will report its progress and the new cost estimate to Congress in June. At this moment in time, NASA doesn't fully know what the final cost of the telescope's development will be, but is now warning that it may exceed its $8 billion budget cap ($8.8 billion including 5 years of operations). The agency will have to get the mission reauthorized by Congress if that is the case.

To Keep NASA's Golden Age Alive, We Need More Telescopes--but Far Less Expensive Ones

The downside of this approach [of launching smaller telescopes] is that highly desirable but extremely expensive flagship telescopes along the lines of Webb must be postponed until the commercial space industry comes fully of age. SpaceX, for example, already launches satellites at one third of the traditional cost, and soon, maybe, that will drop to as little as one fifth. That is a sizable saving by itself.

Cheaper launch services also take the pressure off engineers to relentlessly shave mass from the telescopes themselves by using the lightest and most expensive possible components. Without such a restriction, costs could plausibly be cut by two thirds. Shrinking costs makes a doubling of flagship launch rates feasible. As this commercial revolution continues, an even higher rate of flagship missions could come about. If we embrace such a strategy, the good times needn't stop rolling, and the golden age of astronomy doesn't have to end.

Also at BBC and Nature.

Previously: Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to Spring 2019
JWST: Too Big to Fail?
GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Launch Date Likely Will be Delayed (Again)


Original Submission

Related Stories

Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to Spring 2019 9 comments

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed yet again:

The launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been rescheduled to occur sometime between March and June 2019 from French Guiana. The delay follows a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities that need to occur prior to launch. The JWST was previously scheduled to launch in October 2018. "The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington, said in a NASA press release. "Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected."

The change in launch window request has been coordinated with the European Space Agency (ESA), which is providing the Ariane 5 launch vehicle for the JWST. As part of an agreement with ESA, NASA recently conducted a routine schedule assessment to ensure launch preparedness and determined that a reschedule was necessary.

While testing of the telescope and science instruments at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, continues to go well and remain on schedule, the spacecraft itself, made up of the spacecraft bus and sunshield, has experienced delays during its integration and testing at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. "Webb's spacecraft and sunshield are larger and more complex than most spacecraft," said Eric Smith, program director for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The combination of some integration activities taking longer than initially planned, such as the installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, factoring in lessons learned from earlier testing, like longer time spans for vibration testing, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer. Considering the investment NASA has made, and the good performance to date, we want to proceed very systematically through these tests to be ready for a Spring 2019 launch."

An upside? A better chance of being prepared to image Planet Nine during the 5-10 year operating life of JWST.

Also at NASA.


Original Submission

JWST: Too Big to Fail? 85 comments

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), an infrared space observatory with an $8.8 billion budget, will be transported to South America to launch atop an Ariane 5 rocket, presumably in Spring 2019. The JWST was not intended to be serviceable at the Earth-Sun L2 point. Will there still be a "Golden Age of astronomy" even if the JWST fails?

[Due] to its steadily escalating cost and continually delayed send-off (which recently slipped from 2018 to 2019), this telescopic time machine is now under increasingly intense congressional scrutiny. To help satisfy any doubts about JWST's status, the project is headed for an independent review as soon as January 2018, advised NASA's science chief Thomas Zurbuchen during an early December congressional hearing. Pressed by legislators about whether JWST will actually launch as presently planned in spring of 2019, he said, "at this moment in time, with the information that I have, I believe it's achievable."

[...] Simply launching JWST is fraught with peril, not to mention unfurling its delicate sunshield and vast, segmented mirror in deep space. Just waving goodbye to JWST atop its booster will be a nail-biter. "The truth is, every single rocket launch off of planet Earth is risky. The good news is that the Ariane 5 has a spectacular record," says former astronaut John Grunsfeld, a repeat "Hubble hugger" who made three space-shuttle visits to low-Earth orbit to renovate that iconic facility. Now scientist emeritus at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, he sees an on-duty JWST as cranking out science "beyond all of our expectations."

"Assuming we make it to the injection trajectory to Earth-Sun L2, of course the next most risky thing is deploying the telescope. And unlike Hubble we can't go out and fix it. Not even a robot can go out and fix it. So we're taking a great risk, but for great reward," Grunsfeld says.

GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Launch Date Likely Will be Delayed (Again) 16 comments

The U.S. Government Acountability [sic] Office (GAO) has warned that the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is likely to be delayed again, which could cause the budget cap set by the U.S. Congress to be exceeded:

The U.S. Government Acountability [sic] Office (GAO), a non-partisan group that investigates federal spending and performance, has issued a report on the James Webb Space Telescope that has astronomers worried. "It's likely the launch date will be delayed again," the report concludes — an ominous statement, given that any further delays could risk project cancellation.

Last year NASA announced a delay in the telescope's launch to sometime between March and June 2019. The 5- to 8-month delay came from problems integrating spacecraft components, especially its complex, five-layered sunshield, which must unfold perfectly when the telescope is deployed. Right after requesting the change in launch readiness date, the mission learned of further delays from its contractor, Northrum Grumman, due to "lessons learned from conducting deployment exercises of the spacecraft element and sunshield."

The mission now has 1.5 months of schedule reserve remaining, the GAO finds. Delays during integration and testing are common, "the phase in development where problems are most likely to be found and schedules tend to slip." The project has a total of five phases of integration and testing, and has made significant progress on phases three and four, with the fifth phase beginning in July.

GAO's 31-page report, February 2018: JWST: Integration and Test Challenges Have Delayed Launch and Threaten to Push Costs Over Cap.

Also at Science Magazine.

Previously: Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to Spring 2019
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Could be Further Delayed

Related: James Webb Space Telescope Vibration Testing Completed
NASA Considering Flagship Space Telescope Options for the 2030s
WFIRST Space Observatory Could be Scaled Back Due to Costs
JWST: Too Big to Fail?
Trump Administration Budget Proposal Would Cancel WFIRST


Original Submission

JWST Launch Christmas Morning 55 comments

James Webb Space Telescope reaches launch pad for Christmas liftoff

The James Webb Space Telescope is due to launch on Saturday (Dec. 25) during a 32-minute window that opens at 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT). The massive observatory will blast off from Kourou, French Guiana, atop an Ariane 5 rocket operated by European launch provider Arianespace. You can watch launch coverage live at Space.com beginning at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) courtesy of NASA or you can watch directly at the agency's website.

ESA launch kit (PDF).

Previously:


Original Submission

Screws and Washers Have Fallen Off JWST Amid Testing and Independent Review 32 comments

JWST suffers new problem during spacecraft testing

In a presentation at a meeting of the National Academies' Space Studies Board here May 3, Greg Robinson, the JWST program director at NASA Headquarters, said some "screws and washers" appear to have come off the spacecraft during recent environmental testing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California. Technicians found the items after the spacecraft element of JWST, which includes the bus and sunshield but not its optics and instruments, was moved last weekend from one chamber for acoustics tests to another to prepare for vibration testing.

"Right now we believe that all of this hardware — we're talking screws and washers here — come from the sunshield cover," he said. "We're looking at what this really means and what is the recovery plan." The problem, he said, was only a couple of days old, and he had few additional details about the problem. "It's not terrible news, but it's not good news, either," he said. The incident, Robinson argued, showed the importance of the wide range of tests the spacecraft is put through prior to launch. "That's why we do the testing," he said. "We do it now, we find it now, we fix it and we launch a good spacecraft."

This latest incident comes as an independent review board, chartered by NASA in late March after announcing a one-year delay in JWST's launch because of other technical issues, is in the midst of its analysis of the mission and its launch readiness. That review, led by retired aerospace executive and former NASA Goddard director Tom Young, is scheduled to be completed at the end of the month.

NASA is expected to brief Congress on the status of the James Webb Space Telescope in late June.

Also at Popular Mechanics.

Previously: James Webb Space Telescope Vibration Testing Completed
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to Spring 2019
JWST: Too Big to Fail?
GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Launch Date Likely Will be Delayed (Again)
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to May 2020, Could Exceed Budget Cap
NASA Announces JWST Independent Review Board Members

Related: Northrop Grumman's Faulty Payload Adapter Reportedly Responsible for "Zuma" Failure


Original Submission

NASA Announces JWST Independent Review Board Members 3 comments

NASA announces James Webb Space Telescope Independent Review Board members

NASA recently announced the formation of an external Independent Review Board for the space agency's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The board will study a variety of factors impacting the mission's success and reinforce NASA's strategy for completing the observatory's final integration and testing phase, launch phase and commissioning.

"We are exploring every aspect of Webb's final testing and integration to ensure a successful mission, delivering on its scientific promise," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a NASA news release. "This board's input will provide a higher level of confidence in the estimated time needed to successfully complete the highly complex tasks ahead before NASA defines a specific launch time frame."

According to NASA, the board includes individuals with expertise and experience in program management, schedule and cost management, systems engineering and the integration and testing of large and complex space systems, science instrumentation, unique flight hardware and missions with science objectives similar to Webb.

[...] According to NASA, the members of the Independent Review Board are:

The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's Next Great Observatory, Passes Final Ground Tests 13 comments

The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's next great observatory, passes final ground tests:

NASA and its partners working on the James Webb Space Telescope have completed their final tests of the giant observatory and are now preparing it for a trip to a South American spaceport for a launch later this year.

Conceived more than 30 years ago as a successor of the then new Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb will be the largest observatory ever to be put in orbit. It is designed to use its infrared eyes to peer further into the universe's history than ever before. With its 6.5-meter in diameter gold-plated mirror, the telescope will attempt to answer questions about the formation of first stars and galaxies out of the darkness of the early universe.

At 44 feet (13.2 meters) long and 14 feet (4.2 m) wide, the telescope is about the size of a large tractor-trailer truck, fitted with intricate sun shades that could cover a tennis court once unfolded.

The program faced many delays, not just due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but seems finally on track to start producing ground-breaking astronomical observations. The testing, which took place at the facilities of prime contractor Northrop Grumman in California, made sure that nothing would go wrong with the more than $10 billion spacecraft during launch and once in space.

"NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major turning point on its path toward launch with the completion of final observatory integration and testing," Gregory Robinson, Webb's program director at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. "We have a tremendously dedicated workforce who brought us to the finish line, and we are very excited to see that Webb is ready for launch and will soon be on that science journey."


Original Submission

Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed Again, This Time to March 2021, Cost at $9.66 Billion 17 comments

Remember the JWST? Yup:

NASA has again delayed the launch of its next-generation space observatory, known as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the space agency announced today. The telescope now has a new launch date of March 30th, 2021. It's the second delay to the project's timeline this year, and the third in the last nine months.

"We're all disappointed that the culmination of Webb and its launch is taking longer than expected, but we're creating something new here. We're dealing with cutting edge technology to perform an unprecedented mission, and I know that our teams are working hard and will successfully overcome the challenges," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video statement. "In space we always have to look at the long term, and sometimes the complexities of our missions don't come together as soon as we wish. But we learn, we move ahead, and ultimately we succeed."

NASA pushed the launch of JWST, which is viewed as a more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, from 2019 to 2020 in March of this year. At the same time the space agency also convened an independent review board to assess the future of the project, which is running the risk of blowing by an $8 billion cost cap set by NASA in 2011. Going beyond that cost cap would mean that Congress has to reauthorize the program.

Northrop Grumman's Faulty Payload Adapter Reportedly Responsible for "Zuma" Failure 9 comments

Northrop Grumman, rather than SpaceX, is reportedly responsible for the loss of a secret satellite (reportedly) worth $3.5 billion:

In early January, SpaceX adamantly denied rumors that it had botched the launch of a classified spy satellite called Zuma, and now, a new government probe has absolved the company of blame for the spacecraft's loss. Government investigators looking into the mission determined that a structure on top of the rocket, called the payload adapter, failed to deploy the satellite into orbit, The Wall Street Journal reports. That adapter was built by defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which means SpaceX isn't at fault for Zuma's demise.

This scenario aligns with what many speculated at the time. SpaceX launched Zuma on top of its Falcon 9 rocket on January 7th, and just a day later, reports started to surface that the satellite had fallen back to Earth and burned up in the atmosphere after the mission. However, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell claimed that the rocket performed as it was supposed to. "For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night," she said in a statement. "If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false."

[...] Meanwhile, the payload adapter failure isn't a good look for Northrop Grumman, which is having a difficult time piecing together another important spacecraft right now: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop is the main contractor of the telescope and is currently integrating large pieces of the spacecraft at the company's facilities in Redondo Beach, California. However, NASA recently announced that James Webb's launch will have to be delayed until 2020, due to a number of mistakes and delays that were made at Northrop during the construction process.

SpaceX should demand to use its own payload adapters for any new classified/national security launches, because it will probably be granted in light of this "Beltway bandit" fiasco.

Also at CNBC and LA Times.

Previously: SpaceX's Mysterious Zuma Mission May Soon Take Flight
Rumors Swirl Around the Fate of the Secret "Zuma" Satellite Launched by SpaceX
Zuma Failure Emboldens SpaceX's ULA-Backed Critics; Gets Support from US Air Force [Updated]

Related: GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Launch Date Likely Will be Delayed (Again)
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to May 2020, Could Exceed Budget Cap


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by patrick on Wednesday March 28 2018, @05:52AM (32 children)

    by patrick (3990) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @05:52AM (#659364)

    NASA will also establish an external Independent Review Board to validate assessments of the telescope's testing

    Yes, but who will check the validated assessments of the testing of the telescope?

    Then they'll need someone to certify the checking of the validated assessments of the testing of the telescope.

    But of course an independent group has to corroborate the certified checking of the validated assessments of the testing of the telescope ... but only if that group is endorsed by an outside review board that's been appraised by a company verified by an autonomous, nonpartisan committee.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:12AM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:12AM (#659371) Journal

      The I3RBC

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:34AM (29 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:34AM (#659375)

      Then they'll need someone to certify the checking of the validated assessments of the testing of the telescope.

      Not only that, but they will need someone to certify the certification of the checking of the validated assessments of the testing. You see where this is going, Patrick? They would not have called you a Saint if you had to verify that All the Serpents had left Ireland. Same logic applies to the James Webb.

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      Juvenal, if I recall correctly. Are you a "private enterprise space advocate", like our takyon, or the khallow? Are you one who think that if the Government is doing it, it must be wrong, and over budget? If so, I suggest you move to the Libertarian paradise of, wait for it! Utah! Yes! Everyone who is faithful will get their own planet, and with their spiritual wives (oh, you are a woman? Sorry, wrong religion) they can start a whole new civilization, and eventually their own James Webb Space Telescope, although everything that it will show them is a lie! Joseph Smith was not a Horndog! He did not tell those young women who were married, that an angel with a fiery sword appeared before him insisting that they have sex with him, for the greater glory of god, and Kolob, and shit.

      Woh, this post went off target! May the James Webb Telescope do better! Cheerio!!

      • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:59AM (12 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:59AM (#659380) Journal

        Are you a "private enterprise space advocate", like our takyon, or the khallow? Are you one who think that if the Government is doing it, it must be wrong, and over budget?

        Well, certainly was the case with the JWST - order of magnitude growth in costs (originally started as half a billion dollar telescope in 1996) and a ten year delay in deployment and counting. When you've lived through several decades of serial clusterfucks from NASA and other US government agencies, you tend to lose a lot of respect for the process.

        • (Score: 1) by tftp on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:31AM (1 child)

          by tftp (806) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:31AM (#659389) Homepage
          It is not entirely impossible that these cost overruns will kill the project. A telescope might not be the primary spending target among congressmen, not at that cost.
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by aristarchus on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:52AM (9 children)

          by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:52AM (#659396) Journal

          So, my dear and exceptionally scientific khallow, where is the private enterprise LaGrange Point Space Telescope project of which you speak? Oh, yes, no profit in it, except for the contracts paid for by taxes. So, clusterfuck, or not even trying to expand human knowledge, since there is no profit in it? Mercenaries can just go and die, as far as I am concerned. If they occasionally take a contract that does expand human knowledge, all well and good. But we should execute them immediately afterwards. We do not want to encourage this kind of Republican behavior. It is bad for humanity, and bad for science.

          • (Score: 2, Informative) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @10:03AM (8 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @10:03AM (#659415) Journal

            So, my dear and exceptionally scientific khallow, where is the private enterprise LaGrange Point Space Telescope project of which you speak?

            Why should there be one? I'd assert to the contrary that its absence even as a website is a good indication of the actual cost vs. value of such a project.

            since there is no profit in it

            No profit in any sense. When someone merely speaks of monetary profit as if that were the only reason a private group would ever do something, then I have to wonder why they would ever think that motivations of a public group should be different? This thinking is magical in three ways. First, it ignores that private groups can indeed do these things as well. Someone or some group can put up a JWST-class telescope with their own money. After all, private companies built the JWST in the first place, it would just take a different funding source. And $8 billion isn't out of reach for a lot of potential funding sources.

            Second, we have plenty of examples of private groups who do things that are not-for-profit in the monetary sense, but have sufficient non-monetary value to the people involved that they put their own money and effort into them. If you aren't willing to fund a project with your own money, then why should the rest of us do it? There should be a more compelling reason than a vague, "Space telescopes are cool" aspect to this.

            Third, the JWST just isn't that valuable and has huge opportunity costs - it's very existence displaces other uses of the money. People don't seem to get the point that $8 billion should go a lot further than that. For example, a few things that you can buy with $8 billion:

            • Feed [weforum.org] 50 million Africans for a year.
            • Educate [ed100.org] (the full K-12) almost 66,000 "Average Alexes" in the US or pay for a $30k per year stipend for five years for 50k STEM graduate students.
            • More [nsf.gov] than a year of NSF (National Science Foundation) funding.

            Earth-side telescopes:

            • Roughly 40 pairs [noao.edu] of Keck-class telescopes.
            • The current pricing for eight Extremely Large Telescopes [wikipedia.org], a proposed 40 meter telescope under construction that's currently expected to cost a little over a billion Euro.
            • Somewhere around 20 million 8 inch Dobsonian reflectors [wikipedia.org] (assuming bulk price of $400 per). Could easily give one to every family in California.

            But let's consider space-only possibilities of that $8 billion.

            • Put 4800 metric tons in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) with the Falcon Heavy (~90 launches of 54 tons reusable configuration at $90 million per launch). That's roughly the mass of water in two Olympic-class swimming pools.
            • Construction and launch of somewhere around a dozen Hubble telescope clones (construction cost was somewhere around half a billion dollars plus launch).
            • Construction and launch of somewhere around two dozen Mars Exploration Rovers (construction plus launch cost somewhere around $300 million).
            • Three JWST telescopes launched on Falcon Heavies instead of Delta IV Heavies (two third cost savings from reduced mass optimization, according to related story above).
            • One or two International Space Station clones launched on multiple Falcon Heavies and minus the international cooperation part (which left Russia in the critical path). Maybe even to three such stations in equivalent volume, if one constructs with B330 inflatable modules from Bigelow Aerospace.
            • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:10PM (7 children)

              by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:10PM (#659613)

              Well, 20 million small, or a few really big, telescopes would send most of that money overseas. The $8B spent on JWST are mostly injected into the economy, as income of thousands of people working on the project (minus some money from bonuses leaking to offshore investments, and a few foreign contributions to the platform).

              Hubble/ISS clones would skyrocket in price, even if NASA does have the NRO frames, as modern tech, and not launching on the shuttle, require significant redesigns.
              Not quite sure why you'd launch filled swimming pools into space... Igloo habitats? Aluminium boxes have much better space-to-weight ratios. (grin)

              Teaching and health grants would definitely be good uses.

              Yes there are apparently better uses for that money. But it's sustaining high-tech materials, optical and space research, making it it a lot better than what we all know it would otherwise be allocated for: half of a twelfth aircraft carrier (also local build jobs, but not very high-techend, and very expensive after launch).

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @08:01PM (6 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @08:01PM (#659658) Journal

                The $8B spent on JWST are mostly injected into the economy

                We can always inject money more efficiently than by spending on a space telescope.

                Hubble/ISS clones would skyrocket in price, even if NASA does have the NRO frames, as modern tech, and not launching on the shuttle, require significant redesigns.

                They only require significant redesigns once.

                Yes there are apparently better uses for that money. But it's sustaining high-tech materials, optical and space research, making it it a lot better than what we all know it would otherwise be allocated for: half of a twelfth aircraft carrier (also local build jobs, but not very high-techend, and very expensive after launch).

                Just because there is colossal waste in the military procurement doesn't justify colossal waste in space development.

                • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday March 29 2018, @04:51PM (5 children)

                  by bob_super (1357) on Thursday March 29 2018, @04:51PM (#660045)

                  > > Hubble/ISS clones would skyrocket in price, even if NASA does have the NRO frames,
                  > > as modern tech, and not launching on the shuttle, require significant redesigns.
                  > They only require significant redesigns once.

                  You must be new to this space thing :)
                  There are only two NRO frames, and we do not know whether they are actually identical.
                  Even it there were a dozen frames on which to build up, you'd get Zumwalt Syndrome, and probably end up with at most 3 telescopes, and a price tag above the JWST (not that getting 3 wouldn't be a great thing, science-wise).
                  It ain't right, but that's just the way it is.

                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 29 2018, @05:41PM (4 children)

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 29 2018, @05:41PM (#660088) Journal

                    but that's just the way it is

                    No, it's not. Let's look at your argument, using the Hubble-clone angle:

                    There are only two NRO frames, and we do not know whether they are actually identical.

                    Since 12 > 2, we would have to build a bunch of frames anyway. Building 12 identical frames and chucking the two NRO frames is not going to be much more expensive than building 10 and using the two probably inconsistent NRO frames.

                    Even it there were a dozen frames on which to build up, you'd get Zumwalt Syndrome, and probably end up with at most 3 telescopes, and a price tag above the JWST (not that getting 3 wouldn't be a great thing, science-wise).

                    Why would that happen? We're not designing a completely new vehicle with everything new (which is what happened with the Zumwalt destroyer design). The Hubble already is up there and working, indicating the base design works and the design flaws are well known and addressable. Zumwalt and similar projects failed hard because they made almost everything new at once and were too complex for the contractor to make it all work as planned. That's the JWST in a nutshell - resulting in an order of magnitude increase in the cost and apparently at least a 13 year delay from launch (2007 apparently was the first planned launch date).

                    So we're to expect that there will be a "Zumwalt" syndrome when the main development cost will be incorporating modern materials and fixing known problems in an established, working design? Sorry, that's nonsense.

                    The whole point of criticism about the JWST is that we can do things very differently. It's not "just the way it is". This feigned helplessness is worthless.

                    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday March 29 2018, @06:33PM (3 children)

                      by bob_super (1357) on Thursday March 29 2018, @06:33PM (#660122)

                      > incorporating modern materials and fixing known problems in an established, working design

                      That IS the crux of the problem.
                      You can't just reuse the 40-years-old design of the hubble, because it's designed for specific materials, specific heat and power constraints, specific launcher, specific orbit and shielding ... Even the mirror polishing tools are obsolete and/or discarded.

                      So you gotta restart from scratch, with "HST-looking cylinder that fits a 5m fairing, without any unfolding or cryo mess". And once everything restarts from scratch, you get Zumwalted, or worse, SLSed. Which we both agree is the part we need to fix.
                      And indeed, the first step to fixing it is to design something cheaper, to be launched for cheaper, so that not everyone rushes in for their once-in-a-career opportunity. Yet, the performance has to exceed the high bar of Hubble. And once one is up, you never know if another one will get the green light, because the elders in DC are short-sighted. They'll be even more short-sighted if each one is slightly different, reducing the benefits of reuse. So everyone wants to be in the first one, just in case, and/or have hooks in the first one to help the second and third not be too different. That delays and raises the cost of the first one... and Zumwalt waltzes in...

                      Do you believe that the original designers wanted JWST to be a 9 billion dollars 1-shot, on top of 420 tons of boom-stuff ?

                      We know what to fix, but short of getting the NRO to look up, how do you fix it?

                      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 29 2018, @07:22PM (2 children)

                        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 29 2018, @07:22PM (#660145) Journal

                        You can't just reuse the 40-years-old design of the hubble, because it's designed for specific materials, specific heat and power constraints, specific launcher, specific orbit and shielding ... Even the mirror polishing tools are obsolete and/or discarded.

                        Of course, you can. I agree that the heavily mass optimized design will take more work and cost to redesign than it would if it weren't so optimized. But that's far from impossible and it will be cheaper than a fresh start much less JWST-style Zumwalt syndrome. And once you've done that, you can split the cost across 12 telescopes.

                        And indeed, the first step to fixing it is to design something cheaper, to be launched for cheaper, so that not everyone rushes in for their once-in-a-career opportunity. Yet, the performance has to exceed the high bar of Hubble. And once one is up, you never know if another one will get the green light, because the elders in DC are short-sighted. They'll be even more short-sighted if each one is slightly different, reducing the benefits of reuse. So everyone wants to be in the first one, just in case, and/or have hooks in the first one to help the second and third not be too different. That delays and raises the cost of the first one... and Zumwalt waltzes in...

                        Then don't do that.

                        Do you believe that the original designers wanted JWST to be a 9 billion dollars 1-shot, on top of 420 tons of boom-stuff ?

                        Yes. There's more profit in that. Keep in mind that most of the checks have already been cashed. JWST has already accomplished most of its pork goals. A good portion of the politicians, businesses, and whatnot don't care if the JWST succeeds or not. They already got theirs.

                        We know what to fix, but short of getting the NRO to look up, how do you fix it?

                        Already pointed out one obvious way - use economies of scale from making multiple copies. And space telescope building should be a conservative exercise not a Zumwalt-building exercise. It'd be in space already, if it had been based on a more conservative design.

                        Funny how you can rationalize throwing away 9 billion USD on a mediocre space telescope, but can't be bothered to rationalize fixing NASA so that 9 billion USD does enormous things in space like it should.

                        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday March 29 2018, @07:44PM (1 child)

                          by bob_super (1357) on Thursday March 29 2018, @07:44PM (#660163)

                          Funny, how you can dismiss the rational explanation of the problem with a "don't do that", and then wave a magic "fixing NASA" wand...

                          A space telescope will cost a tanker-sized boatload of cash regardless of "conservative" or not. And, to convince people to allocate that boatload, you need to tout its much better performance than the next terrestrial Humongously Ginormous Large Telescope. Short of doing interferometry, a bunch of similar telescopes isn't what's needed.

                          As far as pork, at least JWST should have a Hubble-scale impact on the science it's designed for. Beats an aircraft carrier.

                          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 29 2018, @09:24PM

                            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 29 2018, @09:24PM (#660205) Journal

                            Funny, how you can dismiss the rational explanation of the problem with a "don't do that", and then wave a magic "fixing NASA" wand...

                            I disagree that the explanation is rational. The Zumwalt syndrome is not inevitable. Don't do that is quite viable. And when you steadfastly refuse to even consider the existence of this simple solution, it makes me wonder why you're bothering. Are you truly not interested in improving one of the great societies of the world or of expanding humanity's understanding of the universe?

                            A space telescope will cost a tanker-sized boatload of cash regardless of "conservative" or not.

                            Number of zeros matters. We can't afford to treat $500-600 million as if it were the same as $9 billion. That economic innumeracy/complacency is a large part of the reason the US is in such trouble on so many fronts in the first place.

                            And, to convince people to allocate that boatload, you need to tout its much better performance than the next terrestrial Humongously Ginormous Large Telescope. Short of doing interferometry, a bunch of similar telescopes isn't what's needed.

                            I not interested in "convincing" people to allocate money for the JWST. I'm interested in having a future in space. This Zumwalt syndrome and several other political dysfunctions have killed much of the value of NASA. Fix them or the alternative will be to give up on NASA sooner or later.

                            As far as pork, at least JWST should have a Hubble-scale impact on the science it's designed for. Beats an aircraft carrier.

                            Again, waste in military spending doesn't justify waste in space exploration and development. I agree that there's a vast amount of waste and corruption in the US military to the level that it is an existential threat to the US. My point though is why should we then be placated by NASA being no more wasteful and corrupt? Why are our expectations so low?

                            Instead, I say that we should have much higher standards for these organizations that we use to secure our future. That means no more $9 billion space telescopes or several hundred billion dollar jet fighters that may be slightly better than what we currently have.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:27AM (15 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:27AM (#659388) Journal

        Are you a "private enterprise space advocate", like our takyon, or the khallow? Are you one who think that if the Government is doing it, it must be wrong, and over budget?

        I'm OK with a $10 billion too-big-to-fail space telescope, but it is undeniably over budget. Even if you account for increased capabilities that were added to the original design, it is billions of dollars over budget and over a decade late. NASA readily acknowledges this, and they decided to hold a press briefing yesterday precisely because they believe they have a good chance of exceeding the $8 billion budget cap set by Congress, and will have to get the mission reauthorized yet again.

        The $40-60 billion SLS rocket-to-nowhere, which Congress is overeager to fund [soylentnews.org], is the real problem. It's needlessly expensive and won't even be flying the big payloads [soylentnews.org] it was designed for until it has already been made obsolete by BFR. Passengers can be sent to the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway with the Falcon 9 or ULA's Atlas V instead.

        Governments can obviously get space missions done with reasonable budgets. Look at NASA's New Horizons, ESA's Cosmic Vision [wikipedia.org], or ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission [wikipedia.org].

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by aristarchus on Wednesday March 28 2018, @09:28AM (14 children)

          by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @09:28AM (#659411) Journal

          but it is undeniably over budget.

          Budget? What budget? Whose budget? I am constantly amazed at those who think that knowledge is too expensive. Look, we are trying to understand the universe, not increase the economy by some actually measurable amount! Budgets are like deadlines, they are meant to be ignored.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @10:14AM (13 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @10:14AM (#659417) Journal

            Look, we are trying to understand the universe, not increase the economy by some actually measurable amount!

            There is no one path to understanding the universe and we don't have infinite resources and time available. Economics inevitably comes in. You have to decide what to try and what not to. Even if you think the economy is completely worthless except for what understanding it can contribute to, you still have opportunity cost where making a choice always rules out other choices. $8 billion on a space telescope is $8 billion that could have been spent on other scientific projects which could have expanded your knowledge in other ways.

            • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday March 28 2018, @11:37AM (8 children)

              by bzipitidoo (4388) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @11:37AM (#659452) Journal

              This concern over budgets is extremely hypocritical while the US continues to spend more money on the military than the combined amounts of the next dozen biggest spenders. Talk of "we don't have infinite resources" is ridiculous hyperbole. Duh. No one has infinite resources. Of course we must have defense, but we spend far more than we need. Meanwhile, our infrastructure is decaying because we won't spend the money to maintain and improve it. If it was a choice between the telescope or, say, replacing the lead plumbing of Flint, Michigan and all the other afflicted cities, I'd choose the plumbing upgrade. But it's not.

              Northrop Grumman works on both the telescope and the F-35. One F-35 costs about $100 million. The whole program is about $1,5 trillion and what are we getting out of that? A stupid manned fighter plane that is at best a marginal improvement over the F-22, when real air superiority has moved on to drones and unmanned fighter planes. Could have afforded a hell of a lot of science and infrastructure with that money.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @03:51PM (7 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @03:51PM (#659551) Journal

                This concern over budgets is extremely hypocritical while the US continues to spend more money on the military than the combined amounts of the next dozen biggest spenders.

                So ok to waste money with NASA programs because the US wastes money on national defense?

                Could have afforded a hell of a lot of science and infrastructure with that money.

                Could have afforded a hell of a lot of science and infrastructure with the present spending on NASA. Meanwhile redirecting all that money without reforming NASA just means that one spends more without actually getting more. It'd get sunk on some white elephants with little future and then we'd be back where we are now.

                • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday March 28 2018, @05:41PM (4 children)

                  by bzipitidoo (4388) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @05:41PM (#659605) Journal

                  > So ok to waste money with NASA programs

                  You really believe the telescopes are a waste of money? We don't need to know what's out there?

                  Or are you saying they could have been done with less waste and corruption? I've been a military contractor, and experienced the accusatory environment, the constant suspicion that we were cheating our country and lying, pretending easy problems are hard, stringing out work and even padding the bills. Real thrilling to have the military boys pressure us by dragging in a snake oil sales team from a rival contractor to do their level best to make us look like incompetent, bungling shysters, in order to persuade the military to contract with them instead, and then our management plays the same game, promising the moon even faster and cheaper than they just did, in order to keep the contract. Another little game the military boys play is the national secret crap, withholding vital information because they'll get in big trouble if secrets leak, but if a project fails thanks in no small part to being hamstrung by such concerns, they have the easy out of blaming it all on the slimy contractors.

                  If you suspect corruption and conspiracy everywhere, you might want to think about that a bit. It's very demoralizing for the workers to have bosses and customers rush about screaming that everyone is a lying, incompetent crook, without evidence, only the cynical certainly that everyone lies.

                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:57PM (2 children)

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @07:57PM (#659657) Journal

                    You really believe the telescopes are a waste of money? We don't need to know what's out there?

                    That's two very different questions. I oppose squandering $8 billion to answer the second question a little better, precisely because I want more than just that.

                    Or are you saying they could have been done with less waste and corruption?

                    Absolutely.

                    I've been a military contractor, and experienced the accusatory environment, the constant suspicion that we were cheating our country and lying, pretending easy problems are hard, stringing out work and even padding the bills.

                    Ok, so what? Those suspicions were probably true, even if you weren't in on it.

                    Real thrilling to have the military boys pressure us by dragging in a snake oil sales team from a rival contractor to do their level best to make us look like incompetent, bungling shysters, in order to persuade the military to contract with them instead, and then our management plays the same game, promising the moon even faster and cheaper than they just did, in order to keep the contract.

                    So the suspicions were true.

                    Another little game the military boys play is the national secret crap, withholding vital information because they'll get in big trouble if secrets leak, but if a project fails thanks in no small part to being hamstrung by such concerns, they have the easy out of blaming it all on the slimy contractors.

                    Ok, so what? I'll note this is your second example of corruption.

                    If you suspect corruption and conspiracy everywhere, you might want to think about that a bit. It's very demoralizing for the workers to have bosses and customers rush about screaming that everyone is a lying, incompetent crook, without evidence, only the cynical certainly that everyone lies.

                    It's well past suspicion at this point. Sorry you got tarred with the brush, but you could have always gotten yourself a real job. At this point, I think the entire military procurement system is a net liability to the security of the US with liberal use of the nuclear option required - temporary or permanent banning of businesses from any contracts with the US government. For example, Boeing should have been permabanned for the 2004 scandal [corpwatch.org] involving a lease of 767 tankers. ATK Orbital probably should receive a temporary ban for the stupid SLS/Constellation mess. I'm sure I can find plenty of other examples. I think a few years without a major jet producer, for example, would be a small price to pay for a military-industrial complex that actually serves the US's interests.

                    Or we could continue to to spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on vastly overpriced gear and services only to lose a major war when it counts because the other side wasn't similarly limited.

                    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28 2018, @09:32PM (1 child)

                      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28 2018, @09:32PM (#659696)

                      It's well past suspicion at this point. Sorry you got tarred with the brush, but you could have always gotten yourself a real job.

                      Like a sub-contractor to a concessionaire contracting to the Dept. of Interior, instead of a sub-contractor to a contractor to the Dept. of Defense? That kind of a "real job"? Pot and Kettle, I would like to introduce you to the blackest of the black, the sootiest hypocrite there is: khallow.

                      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @10:45PM

                        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @10:45PM (#659730) Journal

                        Like a sub-contractor to a concessionaire contracting to the Dept. of Interior,

                        I'm not harming national security. And I'm helping a lot of my fellow workers do their jobs better and make those guests happier.

                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 29 2018, @12:30AM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 29 2018, @12:30AM (#659784) Journal
                    What especially puzzles me about your post is that you just spent the previous one describing just how much money the US is blowing on its military, without getting corresponding military power for that money. For example:

                    One F-35 costs about $100 million. The whole program is about $1,5 trillion and what are we getting out of that? A stupid manned fighter plane that is at best a marginal improvement over the F-22, when real air superiority has moved on to drones and unmanned fighter planes.

                    Waste and corruption goes a really long way to explaining why outcome wasn't proportional to spending.

                • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:24PM (1 child)

                  by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @06:24PM (#659617)

                  > So ok to waste money with NASA programs because the US wastes money on national defense?

                  The raise that the Pentagon just got this year ... just the raise ... is three times the NASA budget.
                  JWST is much too expensive, and should have cost a quarter to half of its final tally. But there is plenty of money out there, which the US does not have to throw at every weapon it can think of, just because that's the one thing that Congress can agree on.

                  With half of its current budget for a few years, the Pentagon could still kick the ass of any other country on the planet (or any combo of them, because nukes), and the rest of that money could be used to fix most of the US's structural issues (infrastructures, schools, competitiveness, plus poverty and under-employment, which drive so many of them). There would probably still be money left to help with the deficit, too. And NASA would be leading the way to the Moon or Mars, with major benefits as it attracts researchers and their funds.

                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday March 28 2018, @08:05PM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 28 2018, @08:05PM (#659659) Journal

                    With half of its current budget for a few years, the Pentagon could still kick the ass of any other country on the planet (or any combo of them, because nukes), and the rest of that money could be used to fix most of the US's structural issues (infrastructures, schools, competitiveness, plus poverty and under-employment, which drive so many of them). There would probably still be money left to help with the deficit, too. And NASA would be leading the way to the Moon or Mars, with major benefits as it attracts researchers and their funds.

                    It's worse than that. A sensible procurement policy could probably cover that spending cut and still have greatly superior weapon systems and training for military personnel. I think NASA is so bad off because it is part of this cancer. It needs to be pulled out of that or it will never be relevant.

            • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Wednesday March 28 2018, @08:58PM (3 children)

              by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday March 28 2018, @08:58PM (#659681) Journal

              we don't have infinite resources and time available.

              Where do you get this rather curious idea from, khallow? Makes you sound like an idiot Republican arguing that the Government must have a balanced budget, because individuals and families must, and you know, reasons! Of course we have infinite resources and time! Mostly because we have infinite time. It is possible that we do not, but we do not know this for certain. But having infinite time entails we have infinite resources, even if we do not have them right now. So the question is, does the James Webb funding, even with increases, preclude a more fruitful alternative in the near term? If not, there is no reason not to go ahead with it. Other than some people's ideological tendency toward cheapness and anti-governmentcy.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 29 2018, @12:18AM (2 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 29 2018, @12:18AM (#659780) Journal

                It is possible that we do not, but we do not know this for certain.

                So it would be quite reasonable to have our $8 billion telescope produced 1000 years from now? It's just infinite time, no rush right?

                • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Thursday March 29 2018, @12:27AM (1 child)

                  by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday March 29 2018, @12:27AM (#659783) Journal

                  On the other hand, the James Webb just might spot a Vogon Constructor Fleet! How much would such timely information be worth?

                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 29 2018, @05:43PM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 29 2018, @05:43PM (#660092) Journal
                    So... maybe we don't have infinite time? Who knew?
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday March 29 2018, @08:07PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 29 2018, @08:07PM (#660178) Journal
      No pressure, patrick, but you're supporting the entire discussion tree. Make sure your post is up to code so nothing collapses.
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