Fresh delay in launch of NASA's giant space telescope (Update)

June 27, 2018
NASA says there will be a new delay for James Webb Space Telescope, which will be the most powerful ever built

NASA said Wednesday that human and technical errors had caused a fresh delay in the launch of a giant space telescope, which will now not be deployed before March 2021.

The James Webb Space Telescope—which NASA has long expected to replace the fabled Hubble—was initially meant to go into service this year but has faced multiple hitches.

The Webb telescope will be the most powerful ever built—about 100 times more sensitive than Hubble—and is to be deployed on a mission to give astronomers an unprecedented glimpse at the first galaxies that formed in the early universe.

Its most recent delay was announced in March, when NASA said blast off would likely be in May 2020. The latest snags stemmed from a variety of human errors, technical problems and even "excessive optimism," said Tom Young, chair of the Independent Review Board.

"The complexity and risk cannot be overstated or overestimated," he told reporters in a conference call.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video message that the telescope "is going to do amazing things, things we've never been able to do before as we hear from other galaxies, and see light from the very dawn of time."

"In space, we always have to look at the long term. And sometimes, the complexities of our missions dont come together as soon as we wish. But we learn, we move ahead, and ultimately we succeed. We will get there with Webb," he said.

"I assure you that in the end, the Webb Telescope will be worth it," he said.

The NASA technical report said that in one case, "an improper solvent was used to clean propulsion system valves that had been stored. The error was a failure to check with the valve vendor to ensure the solvent to be used was recommended and would not damage the valves. The valves had to be removed from the spacecraft, repaired or replaced, and reinstalled."

"Another human-induced error was improper test wiring that caused excess voltage to be applied to transducers," it said.

The project, a joint endeavor with the European and Canadian space agencies, has already drawn scrutiny from lawmakers for its ballooning costs, given that its initial budget of $3.5 billion had already soared to a an estimated $8 billion the last time a delay was announced.

The James Webb telescope is named after NASA's second administrator, in office from 1961 to 1968. It will be launched aboard an Ariane-5 rocket from French Guiana.

Explore further: NASA delays next-generation space telescope until 2020 (Update)

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5 comments

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chemhaznet1
2 / 5 (1) Jun 27, 2018
Jesus, is this thing ever gonna make it to space? It's so sad that this program keeps getting delayed because it has such a huge potential to benefit humanity.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (6) Jun 27, 2018
Rather find this stuff out on the ground where we can fix it cheap. Shame they didn't do that with the Hubble; remember that debacle? Turned out to have spherical aberration. This was not NASA's fault; the instrument used to check the mirror figuring had been mis-assembled. The mirror was ground to perfection to the measurement of the instrument; however, the final figure was off with a turned edge because of the mis-assembly. It cost some US$50 million to correct the problem, plus the cost of the shuttle launch and operations. In addition, the launch was delayed by years by the Challenger disaster, and the telescope had to be kept in an enormously expensive controlled environment while it awaited launch. This last was the most expensive problem, and had nothing to do with the instrument itself. In the end it wound up costing ten times the original estimates, and operations and upgrade costs doubled this again.
rrwillsj
4 / 5 (4) Jun 27, 2018

No matter how mature a project? New problems are to be expected. With the odd reoccurrence of an old problem you thought had been finally resolved for certain, years ago.

"We are not surprised that our technology fails so often, The only real surprise is that we ever got it to work in the first place!"

Anyone expecting perfection? Is now trapped in the wrong universe and you can't go home again.
Tuxford
1.5 / 5 (8) Jun 27, 2018
Jesus, is this thing ever gonna make it to space? It's so sad that this program keeps getting delayed because it has such a huge potential to benefit humanity.

Expect further delays as the date approaches, as this thing will become the Huge Bang Fantasy killer, and the DoD can't have that. Such a revelation will shake the math fairies to their core, and spur the emergence of a classified physics. And the new physics permits gravitic weapons, much easier to develop than nuclear bombs. The DoD can't permit that. So they have been dumbing down the academics for decades, and pushing more and more paper studies in the defense aerospace industry, over hardware, where ideas develop.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Jun 29, 2018
Oh dear Tux, you still skulking from shadow to shadow? Gibbering of vast conspiracies to suppress your genius?

Those ain't the Men-In-Black chasing you, Tux. They are the Men-In-White and they are there to help you get the mental health treatments you so sorely need.

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