NASA confirms Webb launch delay to October 2021


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NASA today confirmed that the launch date of the James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed again, from March 2021 to October 2021.

As schedule margins grew tighter last fall, the agency planned to assess the progress of the project in April. This assessment was postponed due to the pandemic and was completed this week. The factors contributing to the decision to move the launch date include the impacts of augmented safety precautions, reduced on-site personnel, disruption to shift work, and other technical challenges. Webb will use existing program funding to stay within its $8.8 billion development cost cap. [emphasis mine]

Note the highlighted words. Vague, eh? They are trying to make it seem that this new delay is solely because of the Wuhan virus panic, but that’s simply not justifiable. Notice how SpaceX has kept on launching Falcon 9s as well as testing new Starship prototypes throughout the panic. Somehow that private company was able keep its schedule going.

The truth is that as early as January, long before COVID-19 was even a blip on the horizon, the GAO was warning everyone that it was unlikely NASA and Northrop Grumman could meet the March 2021 launch date.

Webb is now more than a decade behind schedule, and once launched will have cost 20 times what it was originally budgeted ($500 million vs $10 billion). Let us pray that it works once it gets to is proper orbit, a million miles from Earth, since it will then be too far away to fix.

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2 comments

  • A. Nonymous

    It will be obsolete before it launches, because 8m payloads will be the new standard once the Chomper enters service.

  • Milt

    Hummmm. As Robert writes:

    “Let us pray that it works once it gets to is proper orbit, a million miles from Earth, since it will then be too far away to fix.”

    How’s this for a scenario?

    The WST fails to work, and the gov’mint sells it to China for a few million dollars as “scrap.”

    China makes the call to SpaceX, and a repair mission goes from planning to launch in nine months.

    WST is successfully repaired and refurbished, and everybody is happy.

    China requests that the US gov’mint (and US taxpayers) make more “scrap” for them, and
    Congress jumps at the chance to once again line the pockets of space / defense contractors.

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