Scientists who study space all around the world are waiting in anticipation for NASA to launch its next-generation space-based telescope. The telescope is called the James Webb Space Telescope, and like many other things in the world, it has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic along with technical challenges. NASA has announced a new launch date pushing the previous launch set for March 2021 to October 31, 2021.
NASA says that the decision to change the line schedule was based on a recently completed schedule risk assessment that took into account the remaining integration and test activities required before launch. NASA points out that the web telescope is the world’s most sophisticated space observatory and currently the agency’s top science priority.
NASA says it worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic, and the team is focused on reaching milestones and finding technical solutions to make it to the new launch date. Initially, this assessment was expected to have been done in April, but was postponed due to the pandemic and was only completed this week. NASA says the factors that contributed to the decision to move the launch date include impacts of augmented safety precautions.
The delay is also linked to reduced on-site personnel, disruption to shift work, and other technical challenges. NASA says that the Webb space telescope will use existing programming funding to stay within the $8.8 billion development cost. The program director for the James Webb Space Telescope, Gregory Robinson, says that based on current projections, the program expects to complete all remaining work within the new schedule with no additional funds required.
NASA says that the Web telescope is built on the legacies of the Hubble and Spicer space telescopes. Webb will observe the infrared universe and explore every phase of cosmic history. The team expects to be able to observe light from the first generation of galaxies in the universe.