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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday June 11 2020, @09:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the Covid-19-strikes-again dept.

James Webb Space Telescope will "absolutely" not launch in March:

On Wednesday, the chief of NASA's science programs said the James Webb Space Telescope will not meet its current schedule of launching in March 2021.

"We will not launch in March," said Thomas Zurbuchen, the space agency's associate administrator for science. "Absolutely we will not launch in March. That is not in the cards right now. That's not because they did anything wrong. It's not anyone's fault or mismanagement."

Zurbuchen made these comments at a virtual meeting of the National Academies' Space Studies Board. He said the telescope was already cutting it close on its schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the agency and that the virus had led to additional lost work time.

"This team has stayed on its toes and pushed this telescope forward at the maximum speed possible," he said. "But we've lost time. Instead of two shifts fully staffed, we could not do that for all the reasons that we talk about. Not everybody was available. There were positive cases here and there. And so, perhaps, we had only one shift."

NASA and the telescope's prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, are evaluating the schedule going forward. This will include an estimate of when operations can completely return to normal—Zurbuchen said telescope preparation and testing activities are nearing full staffing again—and set a new date for a launch. This schedule review should conclude in July.

"I'm very optimistic about this thing getting off the launch pad in 2021," Zurbuchen said. "Of course, there is still a lot of mountain to climb."


Original Submission

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The Launch Date for the James Webb Space Telescope has Slipped Again 3 comments

It looks like the launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope has slipped again. It was slated to launch this coming Halloween but now it will be at mid-November at the earliest.

According to Ars Technica:

Last summer, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) set an October 31, 2021, launch date for the $10 billion telescope. The instrument, which is the largest science observatory ever placed into space, will launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket from a spaceport in French Guiana. Now, however, three considerations have pushed the launch into November or possibly early December.

[...] The launch campaign, which begins when the telescope arrives in French Guiana, requires 55 days. Asked whether this means that Webb will not launch until mid-November at the earliest, Zurbuchen said this assessment was correct.

Engadget added:

A delay of a few weeks is not much, considering the initial launch timeframe was around 2007. Still, there are reasons for optimism. Pushing back the launch by weeks rather than months or years is an indication that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for the successor to Hubble.

Previously:

  1. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Passes Crucial Launch-Simulation Tests
  2. NASA's Webb to Examine Objects in the Graveyard of the Solar System
  3. NASA Ominously Chooses Halloween 2021 to Launch Long-Delayed Space Telescope
  4. James Webb Space Telescope Will "Absolutely" Not Launch in March
  5. New Exoplanet Life Detection Method for James Webb Telescope

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday June 11 2020, @09:57AM

    by c0lo (156) on Thursday June 11 2020, @09:57AM (#1006224) Journal

    Well, that's "relatively" good news. I guess.

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11 2020, @10:07AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11 2020, @10:07AM (#1006225)

    Of course it will launch, on a Super + Heavy Musk Engine, that has been concealed from the world so far, or something. Nothing is impossible for a Pubic/Privates cooperative effort, with enough stroking, I always say! Yeah! Webb all the way! So what if it goes "boom"? That is what insurance is for. Not like this is rocket science. Except, it is?

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Flyingmoose on Thursday June 11 2020, @10:33AM (12 children)

    Fuck, I thought it’s already been up there for a couple of years...

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by Unixnut on Thursday June 11 2020, @10:44AM (10 children)

      by Unixnut (5779) on Thursday June 11 2020, @10:44AM (#1006230)

      > Fuck, I thought it’s already been up there for a couple of years...
      Nah... The James Webb Telescope is the "Duke Nukem Forever" of the astronomy community.

      When it started development in the 90s, it was supposed to be launched by 2007 latest.

      In fact, I just checked. JWT was started in 1997, same time as Duke Nukem Forever, and was supposed to be in space by 2007. It is now 2020, and even Duke Nukem has been released, but we still wait for JWT.

      At this rate, by the time it is finally launched, the tech may well be out of date.

      • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Thursday June 11 2020, @10:53AM (7 children)

        by Unixnut (5779) on Thursday June 11 2020, @10:53AM (#1006232)

        Forgot to add. The Irony was that one of the goals of the JWT was to replace the Hubble space telescope, which was considered nearing "End of Life", while the 2003 Challenger disaster and subsequent grounding of the Shuttles meant no more servicing would be done to Hubble.

        Without a service (from memory, I think one of the gyros had stopped working properly), HST would not last long past 2007 (some didn't think it would last until 2007, worrying about a "space telescope gap" between Hubble and JWT).

        Yet Hubble keeps on going. When JWT was delayed they did one final shuttle mission in 2009 to fix/service what they could on Hubble. Apparently now they expect Hubble to be able to carry on until the 2030's at least, which is an impressive length of service for the telescope (assuming by then, there is nobody capable of a servicing mission that the US would allow access to Hubble).

        • (Score: 2) by Muad'Dave on Thursday June 11 2020, @11:28AM (6 children)

          by Muad'Dave (1413) on Thursday June 11 2020, @11:28AM (#1006235)

          Even if the Hubble fails, NASA has a very similar 'scope in cold storage [wikipedia.org], donated by the NRO. They donated two, but apparently NASA used one for WFIRST.

          I'm sure Musk would strap that 'scope on a lifter for a reasonable price.

          • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Unixnut on Thursday June 11 2020, @12:41PM (5 children)

            by Unixnut (5779) on Thursday June 11 2020, @12:41PM (#1006253)

            > Even if the Hubble fails, NASA has a very similar 'scope in cold storage [wikipedia.org], donated by the NRO. They donated two, but apparently NASA used one for WFIRST.

            It doesn't surprise me. The HST was based on the "Keyhole" spy satellites, just pointed at 180° to the rest.

            In fact, from what I remember. The HST was a keyhole satellite plucked straight from the manufacturing line, and handed over to NASA (minus the mirror and classified tech) who then ground the mirror and installed their own instruments. Apart from the internals, there should be plenty of compatible satellites out there.

            It is nice that they donated a couple more sats. It would be nice if they can be launched. The difficulty before was in there being nothing apart from the shuttle that could launch the scopes up there (well, the Russians have the capability, but I doubt the USA would ever let them near the sat).

            > I'm sure Musk would strap that 'scope on a lifter for a reasonable price.

            It would be nice, we can always do with more scopes in space, and bonus if the launch costs are reduced too.

            • (Score: 1) by nitehawk214 on Thursday June 11 2020, @08:48PM (4 children)

              by nitehawk214 (1304) on Thursday June 11 2020, @08:48PM (#1006586)

              HST's mass is 11,110kg.

              If you subtract the mass of the orbiter from the Space Shuttle payload, the payload is only 24,400kg. Delta IV Heavy and Falcon Heavy can beat the Space Shuttle, and with a bigger payload fairing, they could launch both of the satellites in the same launch. Ariane 5, Delta IV, can do it easily; Atlas V could do it with only 1 SRB. Falcon 9 could lift it while recovering the first stage.

              The real problem is the expense. Big launches aren't cheap, and the ground support is expensive too. Hubble needed multiple servicing missions to keep it running, which isn't an option anymore, so these old satellites would cost a ton to get into flying shape.

              --
              "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
              • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Friday June 12 2020, @01:46PM (1 child)

                by Freeman (732) on Friday June 12 2020, @01:46PM (#1006856) Journal

                Would it be totally infeasible to use something like crew dragon to hook on to said satellite, provide a few repairs, and return to earth?

                --
                Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
                • (Score: 2, Interesting) by nitehawk214 on Friday June 12 2020, @10:01PM

                  by nitehawk214 (1304) on Friday June 12 2020, @10:01PM (#1007106)

                  It would need a robotic arm to grab on to it with; and it doesn't have an airlock, so they would have to depressurize the entire capsule. I am not sure if current EVA suits fit through the Crew Dragon hatch.

                  Maybe if Orion ever flies it will have this ability, as it will be bigger.

                  But, a better plan is to make future satellites compatible with MEV or some future robotic repair spacecraft. Make the satellite modular enough, and its a matter of swapping out comms arrays, computers, instruments, reaction wheels, etc.

                  --
                  "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
              • (Score: 3, Informative) by toddestan on Friday June 12 2020, @06:08PM (1 child)

                by toddestan (4982) on Friday June 12 2020, @06:08PM (#1006994)

                I'm sure there's additional complication as the Hubble and Keyhole satellites are designed around being launched from the Shuttle's payload bay, using the Canadarm. I'm sure a system could be developed so that the Delta or Falcon rockets could launch these satellites, but it would have to be developed.

                • (Score: 2, Insightful) by nitehawk214 on Friday June 12 2020, @10:07PM

                  by nitehawk214 (1304) on Friday June 12 2020, @10:07PM (#1007109)

                  That might be why NRO handed these satellites over. After Challenger they had a lot of missions delayed due to the shuttle not flying as often as they expected. Their current ones go up on Atlas V and Delta IV/Heavy, and might already have this capability.

                  My guess is we will never see these spare keyhole satellites fly. And with the big payload fairings of the current and future generation rockets, and mirror unfolding like JWST; there is probably no more need for these 2-meter class mirrors in space.

                  --
                  "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 11 2020, @03:50PM (1 child)

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 11 2020, @03:50PM (#1006336) Journal

        No disrespect to the James Webb Telescope (JWT*) but by the time it is ready, SLS might also be ready for launch.

        * not to be confused with Jack Webb of Dragnet

        --
        I get constant rejection even though the compiler is supposed to accept constants.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11 2020, @09:03PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11 2020, @09:03PM (#1006595)

          not to be confused with Jack Webb of Dragnet

          I just saw this [youtube.com] not too long ago that you might enjoy if you know Jack Webb and Dragnet.

    • (Score: 1) by nitehawk214 on Thursday June 11 2020, @08:31PM

      by nitehawk214 (1304) on Thursday June 11 2020, @08:31PM (#1006579)

      You might be thinking of Kepler's replacement TESS [nasa.gov] that went up in 2018. It has already detected a bunch of planets that are candidates for habitability. I think the plan is for JWST and ground observatories to follow up on these.

      --
      "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11 2020, @12:21PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11 2020, @12:21PM (#1006246)

    COVID-19 restrictions have disingenuously become the "it's not my fault" excuse for a lot of things. Companies that were already planning bankruptcy before now claim it, etc. I'm sure their schedule was affected, but this is a long time in advance to be announcing a launch slip unless there is other competition for the launch pad and rocket in March.
     

    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday June 11 2020, @02:01PM (2 children)

      by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 11 2020, @02:01PM (#1006284)

      > this is a long time in advance to be announcing a launch slip

      Not really. This is why we pay project managers. It's pretty easy to see how much the project has slipped, and extrapolate to a reasonable time line for future slip (assuming some Covid recovery plan), and come up with predictions a couple of years in advance for completion date. NASA is generally quite good at project management (JWT notwithstanding).

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 11 2020, @03:58PM (1 child)

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 11 2020, @03:58PM (#1006349) Journal

        It is true that a project slip may be legitimately predicted based on schedule and interdependencies among scheduled items.

        At the same time, it is also true that COVID-19 has become the "go to" excuse for failures of all kinds.

        Don't blame me! COVID-19 made me do it!

        In the age of COVID-19, anyone might have unavoidably grossly negligently mismanaged resources and caused bankruptcy! It snot my fault!

        Don't blame me! It is because of COVID-19 that I thought GOTO and GOSUB did the same thing when building that avionics firmware.

        --
        I get constant rejection even though the compiler is supposed to accept constants.
        • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday June 11 2020, @04:07PM

          by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 11 2020, @04:07PM (#1006361)

          True. That doesn't mean COVID-19 is not to blame. All of the projects I know of are put back at least 3 months by COVID-19. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out why!

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