NASA is once again delaying the launch of its James Webb Space Telescope for at least seven months, pushing it to October 2021.
The James Webb Space Telescope is one of the biggest projects in NASA history. The project costs about $10 billion and has been in development for nearly more than two decades. Once launched, the telescope will study black holes, and scan the space for possible life-hosting planets.
A huge endeavor
Initial development of the space telescope started as early as 1996. The project was originally scheduled for a 2007 launch, but development issues pushed the launch further than originally anticipated.
NASA said that it is delaying the launch by at least seven months. The space telescope is slated for an October 31, 2021, official launch date. Considering the delay, the project will consume a lot of budgetary resources.
#NASA now is targeting Oct. 31, 2021, for the launch of the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope from French Guiana, due to impacts from the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as technical challenges. Read more: https://t.co/uw55FazSzH #NASAWebb #JWST pic.twitter.com/v5gXa71Es2
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) July 16, 2020
NASA engineers working on the project said that the coronavirus pandemic is one of the main reasons for the delay. Due to strict physical distancing protocols, many employees were forced out of contractor facilities. Moreover, various safety protocols also contributed to the slow-down of the testing process.
NASA issued a press release citing additional technical issues that forced the agency to delay the launch. Project managers and engineers working on the project denied providing details about these unknown issues.
Project managers said that of the seven months of extended delay, three of those were because of the coronavirus pandemic. The project managers did not reveal that the remaining four months are for. There are speculations that it might have something with Northrop Grumman, the project’s lead contractor.
A long overdue and expensive project
The James Webb Space Telescope is widely regarded as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope launched 30 years ago. The new space telescope packs powerful lenses and infrared technology. In terms of technical capabilities, the new space telescope is expected to supersede its predecessor.
The original project was given $500 million as a budget and a 2007 launch date. However, due to various technical and bureaucratic constraints, this launch date was pushed several times. Before the recent delay, the project was supposed to launch in March 2021.
The project is also wildly expensive, both in development and maintenance. NASA officials have previously noted that the project costs $1 million daily. Nevertheless, project managers are positive that their current budget is enough to cover them until the next launch date.
Image courtesy of NASA/Wikimedia Commons