The launch of the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope has been pushed to May 2020. NASA officials cited issues that have arisen from the telescope’s spacecraft platform during integration.
All the observatory’s flight hardware is now complete,” said NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “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.”
NASA officials have confirmed that both the telescope and spacecraft elements have separately met their individual system requirements. The delayed launch has largely been caused by the complex integration of the two halves of the 6,100-kilogram telescope and additional testing that NASA engineers have requested as a result.
Despite the delays, Lightfoot reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to the titanic project stating, “Webb is the highest priority project for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, and the largest international space science project in U.S. history”
The James Webb’s telescope and science payload were delivered to Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility in California early February 2018. Northrop Grumman was responsible for developing the huge sunshield that will be essential for the telescope’s operation. Engineers from the defense contractor are also assisting their NASA counterparts with the final integration.
Once the integration is complete and the telescope has completed the rigorous observatory-level testing, it will be launched from the Kourou in French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 supplied by the European Space Agency.
Credit: NASA/Desiree Stover