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Northrop Grumman refuses to pay $ 800M in cost overruns for the James Webb telescope

Northrop Grumman CEO Wesley Bush admitted Thursday that the company was "concerned about the delays and cost overruns of the NASA James Webb Space Telescope" "He was reluctant to pay the additional $ 800 million needed to complete the project.

"Our view is that this would significantly hinder our relationship with NASA," Bush told the US House of Space Research and Technology in Washington, DC

Thursday was the second consecutive day that the Webb telescope heard after the space agency announced last month that it would need another $ 800 million and complete the development of the telescope by 2021. The agency is pushing this demand to the US $ 8 billion development ceiling set by Congress in 2011, which means that the project must be re-approved to the Agency in the 2019 financial year.

"If space exploration continues to deserve the support of public contractors [1945903] must deliver on time and within budget," said US Representative Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, shortly before he proposed the idea of ​​Northrop Grumman over the recent one Cost overruns published. "If they can not, they should be punished."

Read more: Panel Seeks Responsibility of Northrop Grumman for Telescope Delays

James Webb – the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope aims to revolutionize the understanding of the planet and star world Formation – was originally expected to launch in 2007 and costs about 500 million dollars. It is expected to start in 2021 and cost almost $ 9 billion.

Bush said he understands people's frustration over the delays and cost increases, but the project's unprecedented scope is largely to blame.

"This is the largest and the most complex telescope ever built," he said. "It's a real step forward in technology, and we've also learned that some things we could do faster need more time."

Many in the committee sympathized with him and said the scientific advances of the telescope will be worth the cost. But a 10-person Independent Review Board in June found that human error and other technical issues committed by Northrop Grumman – such as missing sunscreens and fuel injector leaks due to improper cleaning – were a major factor.

MISSING SCREWS: Human Errors Delay NASA's Webb Telescope and Increase Costs by About $ 1B

After much research by Smith, Bush said, "I do not remember anyone because of this mistake loses its job, even though the solvent problem cost the federal government $ 100 million in delays.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, called on the contractor to address these issues after committee members had a seemingly open discussion on how the contractor hires young people in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

I'm sorry, I can not help you with that uplifting statement today, "said Rohrabacher. "The question is not whether [the telescope] is worth all the money, but about all the projects we can not finance because Northrop Grumman failed in his work."

PRICE TO PAY: Cost increases for Webb telescope could cause cuts in other programs

Earlier this week, NASA officials said the agency must rejigrate the budget in 2020 and 2021 to pay for the Webb telescope. This means that other missions, such as Webb's successor, the Wide Field Infrared Surveying Telescope (WFIRST), due to be deployed in the mid-2020s to study dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics, can be killed.

Rohrabacher proposed contracts for key NASA projects if companies failed to keep their promises

"We should change our policies so that this does not happen again," he said. "If a company may not achieve its goals, perhaps we should not give them the next contract to come."

The subject of the treaties also appeared at the Wednesday hearing, which witnessed NASA administrator Jim Briddenstine. Bridenstine argued that there were already ways to punish Northrop Grumman for his mistakes.

Northrop Grumman's contract for the project is a "cost plus surcharge" contract, meaning that the premium fee is his profit. Since the contract was awarded in 2002, the company has already lost $ 28 million from the € 60 million premium it would have received to reach milestones. Bridenstine told the committee that it could lose more if the staff did not deliver, and the agency could reclaim previously paid fees if the company continues to make mistakes and delays.

Bush said Thursday that the company would be in favor of everything their past and future accolades are withheld by NASA until the project is successfully completed, a move that was announced Wednesday by Tom Young, the Independent's chairman Review Board, was proposed.

Nonetheless, Smith had hoped that the company would love to take it further and cover the costs that were exceeded after Congress's budget limit.

"It's clear Northrop Grumman did not stick to the best business practices," Smith said Thursday. "I wish Northrop Grumman would take responsibility for the problems."

Alex Stuckey covers NASA and the environment for the Houston Chronicle. You can reach them at [email protected] or Twitter.com/alexdstuckey.

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