After an independent assessment of remaining tasks for the highly complex space observatory, Webb's previously revised 2019 launch window is now targeted for about May 2020.
NASA will research more before working on the telescope.
Launching a project of this size and scope will be an awesome achievement, but it is not without its challenges.
On March 15, the spacecraft passed a review that confirmed it was ready for launch. "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", says acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.
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Testing is extremely important for any observatory, but this one perhaps more so than previous projects. The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest space telescope ever built. This position, about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away, will help to keep the telescope cool, which is vital in infrared astronomy (the Hubble, by comparison, is an optical telescope, so it doesn't face this requirement).
Testing the space observatory is still yet to be completed, and is expected to take a few months The spacecraft element-the sun shield and the bus-still has to undergo the same kind of environmental testing that the telescope element already experienced.
But even thinking about what might happen once the JWST reaches orbit might be getting ahead of ourselves. Before being officially aproved, the Next Generation Space Telescope, as it was known back then, was thought likely to cost from $1bn to $3.5bn. In 2001, Congress designated the telescope a price cap of $8 billion before launch.
"Both boards' findings and recommendations, as well as the project's input, will be considered by NASA as it defines a more specific launch time frame".
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Right now, the telescope is still in pieces, as components are tested to make sure they can withstand the hazards of space. Just because elements work perfectly when separate doesn't mean they'll do the same when combined, which is why extra testing is needed.
"We have one shot to get this right before going into space", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa's science mission directorate.
Where does the project stand now?
After the successful test performance of the observatory's telescope and science payload, including the NIRSpec and MIRI instruments that form part of ESA's participation, in 2017 at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, the telescope module was delivered to Northrop Grumman earlier this year, where it is now housed together with the spacecraft module. Hubble is restricted in how deeply it can see in space - and therefore how far back in time. NASA has established an external Independent Review Board, chaired by Thomas Young, to assess the program. During testing of the sunshield's folding process and subsequent deployment sequence, it was found that tears developed and the sunshield's tensioning cables had to be redesigned, as the original design left too much slack. However, after years of being under construction, the cost has ballooned to over $10 billion Dollars that includes its launch and operational expenses. After that, engineers plan to finally assemble the complete observatory and check that all its systems work in concert.
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The massive space telescope, which has already cost US$7.3 billion to develop, was a top priority in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's 2000 Decadal Survey.