NASA Delays James Webb Space Telescope, Costs May Exceed $8 Billion

NASA announced that the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed again until May 2020. The launch was previously pushed back from 2018 to 2019.

“Webb is the highest priority project for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, and the largest international space science project in U.S. history.” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

“All the observatory’s flight hardware is now complete, however, the issues brought to light with the spacecraft element are prompting us to take the necessary steps to refocus our efforts on the completion of this ambitious and complex observatory.”

Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. The telescope will launch aboard an ESA Ariene 5 rocket.

NASA, which has a history of cost overruns on international projects, warned that a new cost estimate that may exceed the projected $8 billion development cost to complete the final phase of testing and prepare for launch.

This is a pivotal year for Webb when the 6.5-meter telescope and science payload element will be joined with the spacecraft element to form the complete observatory. The spacecraft element consists of the tennis-court-sized sunshield, designed by Northrop Grumman, and the spacecraft bus, which houses the flight avionics, power system, and solar panels.

Because of Webb’s large size, engineers had to design components that fold origami-style into the Ariane 5 rocket’s fairing configuration.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the biggest astronomical space science telescope ever built, complementing the scientific discoveries of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other science missions.