NASA’s next large space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), may not launch in March 2021, according tomedia, which could add to the cost of the long-delayed budget overspend project. The National Audit Office (GAO), which audits U.S. federal operations, laid out the gloomy news in a newly released report.
Gao, which has been closely following the telescope project for years, noted in its report that according to a new analysis conducted by project staff last October, the agency is only 12 percent more likely to meet its March 2021 target. According to the audit report, NASA will set a new launch date this spring.
Throughout JWST’s history, this delayed launch seems to be just one episode in its long and bumpy history. When JWST was first conceived in the 1990s, it was thought to cost between $1 billion and $3.5 billion, and scientists expect it to be operational between 2007 and 2011. Since then, however, costs have skyrocketed, and with the release date delayed, they have soared by 95%. Now, NASA expects JWST’s research and development and operating costs to reach $9.66 billion.
THE GAO NOTED THAT NORTHROP GRUMMAN, A MAJOR CONTRACTOR FOR JWST, HAS MADE SIGNIFICANT STRIDES OVER THE PAST YEAR AND HAS REACHED SIGNIFICANT MILESTONES IN THE PREPARATION OF THE LAUNCH OF TELESCOPES. However, in planning the timing for the next few years, Northrop has consumed most of its reserves and now has less than a quarter of the buffer.
It is understood that technical issues take up all the valuable time, which is a long-standing problem for Northrop Grumman.
It is unclear how long NASA will delay. But NASA told THE GAO that they had enough money to support its plan to delay the March 2021 program by three to four months. However, the extra work required by Northrop Grumman’s workforce can lead to large cost overruns.
It was also regrettable that the GAO had not made any recommendations in the report.