The recently passed United States spending bill included $533.7 million for the James Webb Space Telescope, the amount requested. "Its cost estimate may exceed the $8 billion cost limit."By exceeding that cost limit, NASA must now ask Congress to approve any addition spending on the mission".
"TESS is opening a door for a whole new kind of study", said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which manages the mission.
One of those new problems is with the telescope's sunshield, which is made up of five separate membranes and unfolds to become about the size of a tennis court, but has to be packed up to fit in the rocket for launch. "We don't really fully know what the exact cost will be", said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for nasa's Science Mission Directorate, during a press teleconference Tuesday, but "if we go one dollar over, we will be in a breach condition".
The project, a joint endeavor with the European and Canadian space agencies, has already drawn scrutiny from lawmakers for its ballooning costs, given that its initial estimated budget was $3.5 billion.
The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope has been delayed yet again and will not now launch before May 2020.
The delay will have ramifications beyond the JWST team.
NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said, "Webb is the highest priority project for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, and the largest worldwide space science project in U.S. history". The space telescope's previous year of launched was said to be 2019, but since more time is needed, the launch will now be targeted for May 2020.
Since 2011, JWST was on track for its possible launch in 2018, but when the project moved into integration and testing, things got complicated. Now, yet another independent panel - chaired by former aerospace executive Tom Young - will review the project's schedule.
The project has been mired in technical and developmental delays for years, and the most recent delay is the result of numerous challenges that have taken longer to resolve than expected, NASA officials said.
Northrop staff are now working 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, but can not work on enough parts simultaneously to stay on schedule.
There are other problems, too. As of now, components of the observatory are at the Northrop Grumman's satellite factory in Redondo Beach, California. In October, engineers discovered several tears in the sunshield caused by a "workmanship error".
In the coming years, NASA will need to rigorously test the telescope's deployment on the ground before it ever launches to space.
NASA has been planning to launch a powerful new telescope that can see across the universe and perhaps to the beginning of time for many years now. Among the many celestial phenomena that it aims to explore are the first stars and galaxies to form in the Universe, as well as planets in and beyond the Solar System.
"NASA has determined that the Webb launch date launch date has been delayed from its baseline by more than six months", said Lightfoot.
NASA hasn't determined the cost of the almost one-year delay.
WFIRST recently underwent a cost-cutting exercise following its own independent review.
The OTE then underwent months of additional successful testing at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas.
He noted that JWST is far more technically complex that WFIRST, which uses an optical system donated by the National Reconnaissance Office and without major deployable systems like the sunshield.