CAPE CANAVERAL – NASA's next-generation Space Telescope has again delayed $ 1 million a day.
For the third time in less than a year, the space agency announced Wednesday a long respite for the James Webb Space Telescope. The observatory will not fly earlier than 2021; until last fall, it was in the books for the start of 2018.
The total cost of the telescope is now estimated at nearly $ 10 billion. Development costs alone exceed Congress' $ 8 billion cap on more than $ 800 million and require renewed authorization.
An independent panel identifies labor errors and embedded hardware issues for much of the escalating costs and delays. An acoustic test of the telescope at the beginning of this year in California by the main contractor Northrop Grumman resulted in dozens of loose fasteners ̵
In another accident, an improper solvent was used to clean spacecraft propulsion valves. Nobody bothered to check if the cleaner could damage the equipment, said the chairman of the audit committee, Tom Young.
NASA was repeatedly overly optimistic, especially given the complexity and unique features of the Webb telescope. Its sunshade, the size of a tennis court once deployed in outer space, is needed to keep the infrared telescope cold and presents a large area of risk.
Despite the many problems, the panel of examiners demands that the project be continued "compelling "scientific potential and national importance," says Young.
Webb – considered to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope – is expected to look further into space and deeper into time than ever before. It will operate from a point 1 million miles from Earth, which astronauts could not reach, such as the low-circled Hubble, which was launched in 1990 with a malformed mirror.
"Do not make mistakes, I'm not happy to sit here We never want to do this story, we always want to talk about our achievements," said NASA Head of Mission Thomas Zurbuchen.
Zurbuchen said NASA should have given better oversight and is part of the Northrop Grumman issue. He said that there will be better quality control and more NASA engineers will participate in everything that goes forward.
"We have to put this down on the ground before we go into space," said Zurbuchen. "Webb is worth the wait."
The Review Board made 32 recommendations and NASA intends to implement them all, officials said.
Last September, NASA announced that it would delay Webb's launch from 2018 to 2019. The launch was postponed from 2019 to 2020. Now is March 30, 2021.
Young said if the Board's recommendations are "rigorously implemented," then the new date is feasible.