NASA has delayed its James Webb Space Telescope by seven months.

07/17/2020 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Astronomy and Space News

James Webb Telecsope

NASA has delayed its James Webb Space Telescope launch.

NASA has announced today a new launch date target for the James Webb Space Telescope: October 31, 2021. This represents a seven-month delay for the already much-delayed mission, which was originally scheduled to launch next March, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rocket will still carry the observatory into space from French Guiana.

Thanks to reserves set aside earlier on, officials say the mission will stick to its congressionally mandated $8.8 billion development budget. That means the mission can continue its development without going back to Congress to ask for additional funding, which it last had to do when facing a 10-month delay in 2019. The new October 2021 launch date was set to take into account pandemic-related changes, including augmented safety precautions and reduced on-site personnel, as well as technical challenges outlined by the Government Accountability Office last January.

The mission had already been due for a schedule reassessment in April to address challenges outlined in this report, but that was itself delayed by the pandemic. “The agency made the decision to relook at schedule margins,” program director Gregory Robinson (NASA) explained in a press conference earlier today. “We hadn’t made a decision to change the launch date and weren’t sure if we would have to at that time.” Robinson estimates that the pandemic was responsible for at least three months of the delay.

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