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posted by martyb on Thursday December 07 2017, @08:49AM   Printer-friendly
from the hurricane-blew-schedule-out-of-the-water dept.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is warning of possible further delays to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

A government watchdog is warning that the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the long-awaited successor to the Hubble that's been beset by schedule snafus and cost overruns, might face further delays. NASA announced in September it had pushed back the launch date of the JWST from late 2018 to some time in the spring of 2019 due to testing delays partly blamed on Hurricane Harvey's impact on Texas' Gulf Coast in August.

On Wednesday, lawmakers on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee were told it could take even longer to launch the world's most powerful telescope. "More delays are possible given the risks associated with the work ahead and the level of schedule reserves that are now (below) what's recommended," said Cristina Chaplain, director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management for the Government Accountability Office.

[...] Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science missions, told lawmakers he expects the space agency will be able to meet the spring 2019 schedule. "I believe it's achievable," he said.

Previously: James Webb Space Telescope Vibration Testing Completed
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to Spring 2019

Related: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
NASA Unlikely to Have Enough Plutonium-238 for Missions by the Mid-2020s
WFIRST Space Observatory Could be Scaled Back Due to Costs


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Thursday December 07 2017, @08:48PM

    by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday December 07 2017, @08:48PM (#606983) Journal

    Light-gathering power goes up by the square of the aperture increase. So telescopes with an aperture of 1/3 have 1/9 of the light collection. JWST is 6.5 meters, Hubble is 2.4, Spitzer is 0.85. Yet it was Spitzer that discovered most of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets recently, even with roughly 2% of the light collection capability of JWST. So you have a point there. But it's still not satisfying to me.

    What we should try to do is make them big and cheap. JWST is as big as it is because the mirrors fold, allowing it to fit onto current launch vehicles. The proposed HDST [wikipedia.org] would use the same approach. We should continue along those lines but make them out of crappier materials. Maybe plastic with a reflective coating spraypainted on. If the materials deform in space, fly in external corrective optics like Hubble's COSTAR. Fold together hundreds or thousands of mirror segments instead of JWST's 18 or HDST's 54 to target an aperture of 100+ meters instead of 6.5 to 16.8 (ATLAST [wikipedia.org] proposal). You could make it bigger than many ground telescopes by exploiting the microgravity environment of Earth orbit (let's pass on L2 for now and make this a visible/UV telescope with easy servicing capabilities).

    Forgo testing as much as possible. Build five or more of the telescopes and fly them into different Earth orbits so you have the option of targeting certain objects continuously with little or no interruption. And the more telescopes you can build within the budget, the more times you can fail but still have a successful mission. Fly individual telescopes on Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy to save cash, reusable mode (less thrust) where possible.

    Obviously, this should be a partnership between NASA and ISRO, where the engineers can be made to work 12+ hours a day [wikipedia.org], no problem.

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