The James Webb Space Telescope destined to eventually replace Hubble has been delayed once again, this time over an unforeseeable issue: the coronavirus pandemic. This isn’t the first time the telescope’s launch has been delayed; it was scheduled for March 2021 most recently, but that date has been pushed back over coronavirus-related issues. The delay was confirmed on June 10.
The revelation was made by NASA Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen during a recent meeting, according to Space.com. There’s no doubt that the James Webb Space Telescope launch has been delayed based on the statement, with Zurbuchen saying, “That is not in the cards right now.”
The pandemic has forced many people to work from home and NASA is no exception. Though many projects and missions continue, the work-from-home teams are dealing with delays and other issues that have impacted schedules. As well, NASA has experienced some instances of employees contracting the coronavirus, putting additional strain on deadlines.
Despite the delay, NASA is still confident at this time that the James Webb Space Telescope will launch next year…it’ll just happen later than March as originally expected. This assumes, of course, that there aren’t any additional delays. At this point in time, the space agency hasn’t picked a new launch date.
Once it goes live, the James Webb Space Telescope will offer astronomers capabilities not currently available from Hubble. The project has proven quite expensive and troubled with both higher-than-expected budget demands and multiple delays. Earlier this year, an official government report indicated that the telescope was unlikely to meet its March 2021 goal regardless of the pandemic.