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Will the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope delay ‘again’?

Will the launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope delay 'again'?

It seems like NASA’s one of the most ambitious project will be delayed again. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that overlooks all the spending and performance of the federal reserve stated that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) might be delayed again due to some technical issues during the fifth stage of integration. Originally rescheduled to launch between March and June 2019, the telescope will slip past its launch window which has made astronomers worried about the future of the project as well as chances of getting canceled if not executed soon enough.

NASA announced a delay in the launch of JWST last year and scheduled the launch window between March and June 2019. Last year, Northrup Grumman, the contractor developing the spacecraft and the telescope faced issue regarding the failure of 8 out of 16 valves situated in the thrusters as they were leaking beyond permissible level. The firm quickly evaluated and found the reason for the issue. Nonetheless, the engineers analyzed the modules hosting the valves and each valve was removed, refurbish, and then attached back to its original assembly that delayed the project further.

Now, GAO has warned that the project might get another delay after issues developed by the complex system of a five-layered sunshield failed drastically in the fifth stage of integration and testing. As per the notice, the contractor Northrup Grumman which is developing the major systems like sunshield had trouble fixing the technical issue regarding its deployment. As per its original deadline, the project has 1.5 months of time as schedule reserve wherein it will have to fix all the technical issues as well as perform five stage integration and testing. The JSWT has reportedly succeeded in the third and fourth stage while the fifth stage is determined to be executed in June.

GAO presented a report regarding the delay in the development where it pointed out that a meeting will be scheduled where managing board of the telescope will decide whether the launch window should be aborted or not. Since the complexities of the development phase are still unfixed, it is highly improbable that the telescope will launch in June 2019. It is not the first time when the project has been delayed due to technical or other constraints. The project had the budget of $1 billion as its development and operation cost, however, the budget ballooned over the years when finally, the project received funding in 2011 by the Congress when the cost of development rose to $8 billion plus $800 million that was assigned for its operation over five years.

The James Webb Space Telescope is named after James Webb, a former NASA administrator. This telescope is the successor to the existing Hubble Telescope. It will be able to capture galaxies and celestial bodies far apart. The telescope will capture large infrared wavelengths with its massive 6.5m wide primary mirror providing detailed images of distant bodies. It will provide data from the beginning of the Big Bang, it will capture potential exoplanets, it will capture the creation of star systems and much more. JSWT is an international collaboration between space agencies of Canada, U.S., and Europe whilst its data will be accessible to all the astronomers researching massive Universe and its creations. An internal audit will be conducted in mid-April by the telescope’s review board after which, a report will be published citing its progress and handsome amount of other details as well.

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