James Webb Space Telescope delay pushes launch to May 2020

NASA technicians lift the telescope into a clean room using a crane in April 2017

NASA technicians lift the telescope into a clean room using a crane in April 2017

Zurbuchen acknowledged that it created perception issues for future large space observatories, like the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which itself is facing cancellation in the administration's fiscal year 2019 budget request. The main contractor of NASA, Northrop Grumman, was supposed to have added the last set of instruments to the telescope.

"Webb is the highest priority project for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, and the largest global space science project in USA history." said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

"All the observatory's flight hardware is now complete", Lightfoot added.

The JWST consists of two separate elements: the optical telescope element, or OTE, and the spacecraft element to which the OTE is attached. These tests will take a few months to complete.

If that happens, Nasa will have to go back to Congress to get the mission re-authorised. In early 2018, the OTE was flown by a C-5 aircraft to California for integration and testing with the spacecraft element. "NASA says the Webb will eventually "solve mysteries of our solar system", look beyond to distant worlds and around other stars".

The Webb will be launched on the Ariane 5 vehicle - a European Space Agency heavy rocket.

Part of this sequence is the unfolding of the large sunshield. Several tears across all five layers occurred during folding and deployment of the sunshield during testing.

Additionally, there were problems that developed with the spacecraft's propulsion system, specifically thruster valve propellant leaks. NASA developed the room telescope in 2 components: the telescope itself and also a significant, hard sunlight guard that will certainly safeguard the observatory's delicate tools from the sunlight. Rigorous testing is needed; we need to do it right on the ground, and failure is not an option. "We can not afford to make any shortcuts on the programs or any mistakes here.", said NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen.

"If we breach the 8 billion cost that was laid out in the congressional appropriations, the project will need to be reauthorized by Congress".

"TESS is opening a door for a whole new kind of study", said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which manages the mission.

Refocusing could be interpreted to mean extra spending, but the sky is not the limit when it comes to funding and NASA has now spent $7.3 billion of the $8 billion it was allocated by U.S Congress for the development of Webb.

"Simply put, we have one shot to get this right before going into space", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Engineers then will integrate and test the fully assembled observatory and verify all components work together properly".

The findings and recommendations of both boards, as well as the project's input, will be considered by NASA as it defines a more specific launch timeframe. However, NASA now says it needs more time to test the telescope before sending it into space.

James Webb will have a sensitivity of one hundred times greater than that of Hubble and its main mirror measures 6.5 meters in diameter, almost three times than that of Hubble's. He planned to start discussions later in the day at the National Academies with astronomy committees meeting for Space Science Week there.

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