Space News, citing a report from the US Chamber of Accounts, presented on February 28, reports that the NASB Space Agency's James Webb Space Telescope may be more likely to encounter additional delays and startup transfers. The document submitted to the US Congress states that the development of the spacecraft has exhausted almost all allocated resources and therefore it is possible that the telescope will not be launched into space within the dedicated window until June 2019.
The development of the James Webb space telescope (JWST ) has been going on for many years. Initially, the device was planned to be launched in 2014, but the excessively high costs for its construction and a serious backlog from the schedule forced NASA to postpone the expected start date of the mission first in September 2015, then in October 2018. However, in September 2017, NASA announced that it is moving the launch for a different period. This deadline was to be a window between March and June 2019. According to the agency, by that time all work on the spacecraft was planned to be completed.
A new launch window gave the mission team an additional four months to prepare the telescope for work. However, a recent report of the US Chamber of Accounts says that soon after the announcement of a new start-up time, project managers learned that Northrop Grumman (a developer of JWST commissioned by NASA) may need another three months. Such a conclusion was made “according to the results of tests on the deployment of telescope elements, as well as testing the sun screen of its mirror,” while the agency itself tested the optical system of the telescope and its scientific instruments.
In fact, serious problems began to be noted as early as 2016 year. Then after the vibration tests, NASA engineers announced some anomalies in the work. The agency did not go into details, but it forced him to conduct a detailed telescope check, since these anomalies could speak about possible damage or cracks in the scientific instruments of the apparatus or its case.
Later it was found out that the source of the problem lies not in the design of the telescope itself, but in special mounts that hold the petals of his mirror in place, not allowing them to turn around. Recall that “James Webb” has a prefabricated structure. The telescope is simply huge, therefore it is planned to send it to the space in a folded form. A large 6.5-meter mirror of the device and a similar size screen shielding it from sunlight is divided into three parts that are planned to be deployed when the telescope is released into space.
The engineers tried to solve the problems with these fasteners during the whole of last year, that actually “eaten” all the backup time, which was originally laid in the program of construction in the event of some unforeseen circumstances.
At the moment, Northrop Grumman employees work on JWST in three shifts 24-hours a day. Since September last year, the amount of labor allocated for the project of the telescope, already five times higher than the original figures.
According to the Commission of the Accounting Chamber, all this may lead to the fact that the launch of the observatory will not take place until the summer of 2019. And then only if all other phases of verification and preparation of the device for launch will be perfect, without any hiccups or delays. This is hard to believe, so the launch of “James Webb” can be moved to the second half of 2019 or even to the beginning of 2020.
“It will be very difficult for us to keep within the current mission launch program. We hope that we will complete all the checks and launch the telescope into space in about a year and a half, “commented Greg Robinson, deputy head of the Directorate of Scientific Missions at NASA.
What does this mean? And this means that the project will once again go beyond the budget, which, in turn, can lead to a conflict between NASA, Congress and the White House, expressing the desire to invest new funds in the program of developing the moon, rather than in new scientific space projects.
Additional complications may be created by the fact that NASA auditors consider the mission's leadership to be the main culprits in the appearance of these delays, as they ignored the recommendations of the space agency on the miscalculation of all the risks that were announced back in 2012, after the firstRenos start timing “James Webb”.