from the Covid-19-strikes-again dept.
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."
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.
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.
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- James Webb Space Telescope Will "Absolutely" Not Launch in March
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