Fourteen years of delay and billions of dollars in costs for the NASA Space Telescope James Webb have already cost Northrop Grumman around half of the $ 60 million
However, Wednesday's leaders questioned whether this fine was enough to hold the Virginia-based company responsible for the success of the country's next major telescope.
These delays are "outrageous and I really think that this is just a perfect example of why the American public does not trust the federal government with their taxpayer funds," said US Republican Debbie Lesko, a Wisconsin Republican, at a hearing in Washington DC Should we believe that this will change in the future? "
The US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology met on Wednesday to hear NASA's demands for a re-admission of the Webb telescope after the agency had announced an additional $ 800 million by 2021 and last month To complete the development of telescopes, the agency pushes it to the $ 8 billion Congressional development limit in 2011, which means the project must be re-approved in the agency's budget for the financial year 2019.
James Webb – The Hubble Space Telescope's Successor To Revolutionize The World The planetary and stellar understanding of the world was originally expected in 2007, costing about $ 500 million, and is expected to start in 2021 and cost nearly $ 9 billion. a distinction US Representative Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, called "really breathtaking."
The n New timetable and cost estimate announced in June was followed by a review of the project by a 10-member Independent Review Board, which noted that human errors and other technology problems committed by Northrop Grumman – such as missing sunscreens and fuel injector leaks due to improper cleaning – are the cause Telescope Development Costs Increase
The Board made 32 separate recommendations to keep the telescope on the right track, which NASA claims will be implemented. These recommendations include: appropriate staff training, improved risk assessment, and leadership to monitor systemic space operations.
A Northrop Grumman official will testify before the committee on Thursday.
Costs and schedules Problems with James Webb and his successor, the Wide Field Infrared Surveying Telescope (WFIRST), were so significant that NASA announced in June that the projects announced in the Decadal Survey for Astrophysics for 2020 had a ceiling of $ 5 billion each Have to have dollars. Both Webb and WFIRST have been proposed in previous surveys, which are lists of recommended missions created by experts every 10 years.
Low Cost Contracts
NASA Administrator Jim Briddenstine said that agency staff took every step of developing the project so far that no other human errors occurred. He assured the committee that the agency's agreement with Northrop Grumman offered other opportunities to hold the company accountable.
Northrop Grumman's contract for the project is a "cost plus premium fee" contract, meaning that the premium fee is his profit. The company has already lost $ 28 million from the $ 60 million premium that it would have received to reach milestones. Bridenstine told the committee that it could lose more if the staff did not deliver.
"In order to receive the remainder of the $ 30 million available, [the company] must achieve and achieve its goals," he said. "The premium fee is your only profit."
He added that there would be opportunities for NASA to reclaim previously paid fees if the company continues to fail.
Some members of Congress were not sure that was enough.
"That's the biggest screw job I've ever seen and their taxpayers screwed up here," said MP Dana Rohrabacher, of California. "I would hope that we can be more realistic in our cost estimates."
Tom Young, chairman of the Telescope Examination Board, agreed. Agencies need to understand that building contractors offer the lowest credible costs, he said, and they need to be smarter about the actual costs needed to build things.
"Contractors will continue to bid low if they continue to be picked," Junge said. "To change that, we have to punish those who charge unrealistically low costs and do not give them a bid."
"Cannibalism of other missions"
The additional $ 800 million NASA needs the Webb telescope. Www.mjfriendship.de/de/index.php?op…39&Itemid=32 "We will influence other projects", said Bridenstine on Wednesday, but the agency has not widely discussed where the ax will fall first.
"If we make these projects and there are transgressions and delays, we can do other missions in the future," said Briddentine.  When the new NASA trustee gets his way, the agency will start with WFIRST, which was designed to launch after James Webb.
He stated that he would end funding for the WFIRST telescope – A suggestion President Donald Trump in his But he would cut back on James Webb
"I think we need to continue with James Webb with WFIRST," he said.
WFIRST, who would investigate the k energy, exoplanet and infrared astrophysics, is scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s. Current costs have risen to $ 3.9 billion, well above the original projection of less than $ 2 billion.
Other programs could be cut by James Webb, but Bridenstine said the agency will not need any money for the problematic telescope next year. The first time the agency has to jiggle the budget is 2020 and 2021, officials said.
Paul Hertz, Director of NASA's Astrophysics Department, said at a presentation on Monday to the Space Agency's Astrophysics Advisory Committee in Washington, DC During those years, the agency expected the telescope to be operational, not in development, so it has $ 310 million allocated for operations.
That means it will need "an additional $ 490 million for Webb in FY 2020 and 21 before what's coming" "Hertz is likely to affect other parts of the astrophysics budget and possibly beyond astrophysics," he said. although he did not specify which programs could be affected.
19659021] Members of the committee expressed their concern that the space research section of the agency would be affected, but Bridentine assured them that no discussion had been held.
Wesley Bush, the outgoing CEO of Northrop Grumman, will be in front of the committee on Thursday at 8 pm CST. The livestream can be viewed here.
Alex Stuckey covers NASA and the environment for the Houston Chronicle. You can reach them at [email protected] or Twitter.com/alexdstuckey.