Tag Archives: James Webb Space Telescope

Head of Webb investigation: Webb was “a step too far”

The head of an investigation panel into the James Webb Space Telescope admitted this week that, though he and the panel fully support the telescope’s completion and launch, he also believes the telescope was too ambitious and “a step too far.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board Oct. 29, Tom Young said that while the mission may ultimately be a success, its difficulties provide lessons as NASA considers future large astronomy missions in the next decadal survey.

“I, personally, have come to the conclusion that JWST had too many inventions, too much risk, and was a step too far,” he said at the end of a presentation about the review board’s work.

Young emphasized that he was neither opposed to JWST being completed nor had doubts it could be done successfully. “There are a group people who are diehard supporters of JWST, and there are others who support it, but they’re really angry at the cost growth and the schedule delays,” he said.

You think? Webb was supposed to cost about $500 million, and launch in 2007. Its budget is now almost $10 billion, and it will not launch before 2021. In the process it has destroyed the entire astronomy program at NASA, preventing the construction of any other space telescopes.

The key question is whether the astronomy community or NASA has learned anything from this disaster. I personally am doubtful, since they are still pushing for WFIRST, a similar big boondoggle that will cost billions and is already overbudget and behind schedule, though it is only in its design stage.

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Update on Hubble: no real news

NASA today released an update on the effort to bring the Hubble Space Telescope out of safe mode and back to full operation.

The only new information they really provide is what they will do, depending on whether they can fix the back up gyroscope or not.

If the team is successful in solving the problem, Hubble will return to normal, three-gyro operations. If it is not, the spacecraft will be configured for one-gyro operations, which will still provide excellent science well into the 2020s, enabling it to work alongside the James Webb Space Telescope and continue groundbreaking science.

In other words, if they cannot find a way to get this third gyro functioning properly, they will shut down one of the two remaining working gyros so that it can operate as a backup, and operate the telescope on one gyroscope.

I find the last section of the quote above very amusing, in a dark sort of way. Not only does NASA rationalize the sad loss of Hubble’s ability to take sharp images, it tries to rationalize the decade-long delays it has experienced building the James Webb Space Telescope. Webb was supposed to have been launched in 2011. It should have been up there already, working alongside Hubble for the past seven years.

Now, the best we can hope for is that Webb will finally reach space while Hubble is still functioning, in a crippled condition. I would not be surprised however if Webb is further delayed, and Hubble is gone before it gets into space.

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NASA wants to delay WFIRST to pay for Webb overruns

In testimony to Congress yesterday NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the agency wants to delay the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope to pay for the new cost overruns of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Bridenstine said during the hearing that no decisions had been made on how to cover those additional JWST costs. “By the 2020 timeframe is when we’re going to need to have additional funds. So between now and then we’re going to have to make determinations,” he said. “Right now that process is underway.”

He said those decisions would consider the guidance from decadal surveys and a desire to maintain a balanced portfolio of programs. He specifically assured one member, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), that the extra funding would not come out of human spaceflight programs, particularly the Space Launch System. “This is relevant to the Science Mission Directorate exclusively, and that’s where, at this point, we’ve had discussions about what are the options going forward,” Bridenstine said.

Committee members used the two-and-a-half-hour hearing to express their frustrations with this latest delay, noting that the original concept for the mission [Webb] called for it to cost $500 million and launch in 2007, versus a current lifecycle cost of $9.6 billion and launch in 2021. “This is 19 times the original cost and a delay of 14 years,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the committee. “It doesn’t get much worse than that.” [emphasis mine]

Only yesterday I speculated that the cuts to WFIRST were related to Webb. It turns out I was right.

I have highlighted above one detail revealed at the hearing. I have always though Webb’s initial budget was $1 billion with a launch date of 2011. It appears it was less, by half, and it was supposed to launch four years sooner. Makes this boondoggle even more of an embarrassment for NASA and the astrophysics community. And for the astrophysics community it is also a disaster, because Webb’s overruns for the past two decades essentially wiped out what had been a very vibrant space astronomy program at NASA.

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James Webb Space Telescope delayed again, with budget rising

Based the conclusions [pdf] of an Independent Review Board (IRB), NASA has once again delayed the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, now set for 2021, while increasing its construction budget from $8 billion to almost $9 billion.

In its report, the IRB found that technical issues, including human errors, have greatly impacted the development schedule.

The agency previously had estimated an earlier launch date, but awaited findings from the IRB before making a final determination and considered data from Webb’s Standing Review Board. The agency established the new launch date estimate [March 30, 2021] to accommodate changes in the schedule due to environmental testing and work performance challenges by Northrop Grumman on the spacecraft’s sunshield and propulsion system. The telescope’s new total lifecycle cost, to support the revised launch date, is estimated at $9.66 billion; its new development cost estimate is $8.8 billion.

It is important to remember that Webb was originally supposed to cost $1 billion, and launch in 2011. It is now a decade behind schedule, with a cost almost ten times higher.

It really does appear like SLS and Webb are in a race to see who can get launched last. And right now, the race is neck and neck.

I should add that if the launch gets delayed much more, NASA will have further problems with the launch rocket. The Ariane 5 rocket, designated as the launch vehicle, is being retired around 2021. Beyond that date there might be problems using one.

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More problems for James Webb Space Telescope?

The impending release of an independent NASA review of the state of the James Webb Space Telescope project suggests that the project is faced with additional issues.

NASA is in the process of evaluating the report from the Independent Review Board chaired by Tom Young to assess the status of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Established in March, the Board was due to submit its report on May 31. NASA said today that the Board has completed its work and briefed NASA. The report will be released later this month after NASA determines the impact on cost and schedule.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, created the Webb Independent Review Board (WIRB) on March 27, the same day he announced another delay in the telescope’s launch. WIRB held its first meeting the next week.

For many years, JWST appeared to be on track for launch in October 2018 after a 2011 restructuring that followed a series of earlier cost overruns and schedule delays. Congress capped the development cost (not operations) at $8 billion in law. Pursuant to the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, if a program exceeds 30 percent of its baseline estimated cost, NASA must notify Congress and no money may be spent on it after 18 months from the time of that notification unless Congress reauthorizes it.

The project will not die, Congress will simply extend it with lots more money. That is how big NASA projects really function, to take as long as possible so that they can continue their real goal of providing pork barrel jobs in congressional districts.

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More problems uncovered during testing of the James Webb Space Telescope

During ground tests of the James Webb Space Telescope engineers have discovered an additional quite astonishing problem that will certainly delay the project again.

In a presentation at a meeting of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board here May 3, Greg Robinson, the JWST program director at NASA Headquarters, said some “screws and washers” appear to have come off the spacecraft during recent environmental testing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California.

Technicians found the items after the spacecraft element of JWST, which includes the bus and sunshield but not its optics and instruments, was moved last weekend from one chamber for acoustics tests to another to prepare for vibration testing.

“Right now we believe that all of this hardware — we’re talking screws and washers here — come from the sunshield cover,” he said. “We’re looking at what this really means and what is the recovery plan.” The problem, he said, was only a couple of days old, and he had few additional details about the problem. “It’s not terrible news, but it’s not good news, either,” he said. [emphasis mine]

The absurd spin expressed by the program director above is garbage. This is unbelievable and entirely unacceptable. On spacecraft, especially those that are not planned for in-space maintenance like Webb, screws are routinely sealed with some form of glue so that they will not unscrew themselves during the vibrations of launch. This is standard space engineering and has been for more than a half century.

That some screws came off Webb during testing suggests a quality control problem at Northrop Grumman that is beyond comprehension.

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The James Webb Telescope: a signpost for identifying fake news sources

The news yesterday that NASA will once again have to delay the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope due to a variety of technical issues and management errors not only exemplified the fundamental failure of the federal government, it also illustrated the routine failures of today’s mainstream press.

First, Webb’s new delay epitomizes the systemic incompetence of Washington. Despite being 13 years behind schedule and costing eight times more than originally planned, NASA and its contractors still couldn’t get things right.

Most of the problems have occurred with the spacecraft half of the project, which was built by Northrop Grumman in California and is undergoing testing there. During the teleconference, NASA officials, including acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, expanded upon technical problems first reported publicly by the agency’s inspector general last month.

These include leaky valves within the spacecraft’s propulsion system and difficulties encountered during deployment tests of the sun shield. Not only did the thin, five-layer sun shield snag during the deployment, but technicians also found seven tears up to 10cm long within the material. NASA and Northrop Grumman have identified fixes for these problems, but their repair has added months of delays to the project, and engineers cannot be sure that more issues will not crop up during further testing.

Such failures, in NASA and in all big federal projects in recent years, are hardly news. Only the willfully blind or those who support wasting tax dollars to distribute pork will deny they exist.

The failures of the federal government however is not the focus of this essay. Instead, the announcement yesterday and the coverage of it by the press provides us a perfect and very obvious signpost for differentiating between the fake news sources that are generally unreliable or too often allow their biases to influence their reporting, and those sources that do a good job.

That signpost is one simple fact: Webb is not a replacement or successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, despite NASA making this false claim for decades. Hubble is an optical telescope. Webb will view the universe in the infrared. These are too entirely different things.

Yet, too many news sources today repeated NASA’s false claim, illustrating how little they know about both telescopes and their design, while revealing their complete inability to do some basic journalistic research. Instead they merely rewrite old press releases, and thus prove clearly by their bad reporting why so many people have so little respect for the modern press.

The worst examples made this false claim right in the headline:
» Read more

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Webb telescope delayed again to 2020

NASA has announced that it is once again delaying the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, from 2019 to 2020.

The observatory was supposed to fly this year. But last fall, NASA bumped the launch to 2019. NASA announced the latest delay on Tuesday. “We have one shot to get this right before going into space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator of science. He said some mistakes were made while preparing the telescope, and NASA underestimated the scale of the job. [emphasis mine]

None of this is a surprise. Webb is more pork than science. It was originally budgeted at $1 billion, with a planned launch in 2011. It will now cost more than $9 billion, and be delayed almost a decade. Since the project began in the early 2000s, by the time it launches it will have been in development for almost two decades, which is almost a lifetime career for some people.

And note, the article includes the lie that Webb is “a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.” It is not. Hubble is an optical telescope. Webb will only look in the infrared. These are very different things.

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Webb faces more delays, cost overruns

A new GAO report released yesterday says that the James Webb Space Telescope faces further delays and cost overruns.

This is par for the course. Webb has become an incredible boondoggle. I hope it eventually gets launched and works, but its gigantic cost, $8 to $9 billion (compared to an original $1 billion budget), and delayed schedule suggests that this was not the right way for NASA or the astronomical community to build its space telescopes. Further, this quote from the story suggests something fundamentally wrong:

The GAO report also noted that, during the sunshield deployment exercises, Northrop discovered several tears in the material which it attributed to “workmanship error.” Those tears can be repaired but may consume more schedule reserve.

Is this thing really going to work? I really hope so, but have been increasingly doubtful as the delays and problems have piled up.

Meanwhile, NASA and the astronomical community is still pushing to get funding for its next “Webb,” the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). This project, similar in scope as Webb, is hardly off the ground and already has budget overrun issues. The Trump administration recommended cancelling in its budget proposal earlier this month, but I would be surprised if that recommendation goes through, considering the pork this new project represents.

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More delays expected for launch of Webb telescope

NASA’s chief scientist admitted during House hearings this week that there will possibly be further delays in the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, now set for the 2nd quarter of 2019.

“At this moment in time, with the information that I have, I believe it’s achievable,” he said of the current launch window of March to June 2019, which NASA announced in September after delaying the launch from October 2018. However, he said an independent review “is exactly what we should be doing, and frankly I have directed the team to do just that in January.”

That review won’t start until January, he said, because of ongoing tests of unfolding the sunshade of the space telescope. Previous tests, he said, took much longer than anticipated, playing a key factor in the decision to delay the launch. An updated launch date, he said, would likely come in “January or February.”

Such an independent review was proposed earlier in the hearing by another witness, retired aerospace executive Thomas Young. “In my opinion, the launch date and required funding cannot be determined until a new plan is thoroughly developed and verified by independent review,” he said.

While it does make perfect sense to make sure everything is really really really ready before launch, that this telescope is already 8 years behind schedule and yet might still need more delays suggests that the whole project was managed badly, from start to finish.

The hearing also dealt with the cost increases NASA is experiencing for WFIRST. As is usual, it sounds like NASA’s buy-in approach there has worked, and that Congress will fork up the extra cash to keep that project alive, until it experiences further delays and more cost increases, when Congress will fork up even more money. Then, wash and repeat. The WFIRST budget is already up from about $3.5 billion to more than $4 billion. I predict before it is done it will have cost around $8-$10 billion, and not launch until the late 2020s, at the earliest.

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Webb Space Telescope delayed again

NASA announced today that they are further delaying the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope from October 2018 to late spring 2019.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now is planning to launch between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities. Previously Webb was targeted to launch in October 2018. “The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected.”

As part of an international agreement with the ESA (European Space Agency) to provide a desired launch window one year prior to launch, NASA recently performed a routine schedule assessment to ensure launch preparedness and determined a launch schedule change was necessary. The careful analysis took into account the remaining tasks that needed to be completed, the lessons learned from unique environmental testing of the telescope and science instruments at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the current performance rates of integrating the spacecraft element.

Webb’s original launch date was supposed to be 2011, making its launch now verging on a decade late. The original budget for the telescope was supposed to be $1 billion. It is now expected to cost more than $9 billion. Like SLS/Orion, this project more resembles feather-bedding, providing NASA employees and the contractors involved a steady paycheck, regardless of whether they ever get anything done. In fact, both Webb and SLS/Orion seemed designed to encourage failure. The project never gets cancelled no matter what goes wrong. Instead, more money gets poured in.

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Webb telescope launch might be delayed again

Because of a scheduling conflict with a European mission to Mercury Arianespace might delay its launch of the American James Webb Space Telescope to 2019.

A time-sensitive mission to explore the planet Mercury, already delayed several times, may force the European Space Agency (ESA) and Arianespace to push back the launch of NASA’s multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) into early 2019. The mission, named BepiColombo, is currently scheduled to launch on the same rocket, the Ariane 5, from the same spaceport in French Guiana, during the same timeframe that the JWST is scheduled to launch (October 2018).

A launch delay to BepiColumbo won’t impact the science of the ESA/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission, but it would translate to a longer journey to Mercury. The last launch delay, which pushed it from April 2018 to October 2018, also translated to a year longer voyage to reach Mercury, now expected to arrive in 2025 instead of 2024.

This is a perfect illustration of the difference between governments and private enterprise. Government-owned Arianespace has been flying its Ariane 5 rockets now for almost two decades, but they have not yet learned how to launch two rockets in one month, and don’t appear interested in trying. Meanwhile, private companies like SpaceX and ULA are both working to achieve a normal twice-a-month launch rate, with SpaceX likely to beat that in the next few years.

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Latch blamed for Webb vibration test issue

A latch that hadn’t closed properly has been identified as the cause of the anomaly that halted vibration testing of the James Webb Space Telescope in December.

At the committee meeting, Smith said the problem was tracked down to a latch designed to hold in place one of the wings of JWST’s primary mirror, which consists of 18 hexagonal segments. Those wings are folded into place to fit within the payload fairing of the Ariane 5 that will launch JWST, then deployed into place once in space. The latch, he said, consists of two plates with serrated teeth a few millimeters in size. “The thought is that the teeth, when they closed it, they didn’t quite seat,” he said. “So during the vibe [test], the teeth clapped together on the order of a millimeter or two, and that was what made the noise.”

Engineers were able to replicate the noise by placing the plates slightly out of alignment in the lab and subjecting them to similar vibrations, giving them confidence that was the cause of the anomaly.

I love how the Webb program manager also says that Webb is “on budget and on schedule.” That claim could only be true if you make believe that the budget was always $9 billion and the launch date was always supposed to be 2018 instead of the original $1 billion and 2011 launch date.

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Webb telescope vibration tests resume

Good news: Engineers have resumed vibration testing of the James Webb Space Telescope after pinpointing and fixing the unexpected movement in one of the restraint mechanisms that hold the telescope’s folded mirrors in place during launch.

Overall, it increasingly looks like Webb is going to get off the ground as presently scheduled, in October 2018.

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NASA estimates one month to address Webb vibration issues

NASA now expects it will take a month to assess and fix the issues uncovered during vibration testing of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the new head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), told SpacePolicyOnline.com that dealing with the problem likely will consume one of the remaining six months of schedule reserve.

No one at NASA has as yet explained exactly what the “anomalous readings” were during vibration testing. Nor did Zurbuchen indicate what the fix would be.

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“Anomalous readings” detected during testing of Webb telescope

During standard vibration testing to simulate launch, engineers have detected what they call “anomalous readings” in the James Webb Space Telescope.

During the vibration testing on December 3, at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, accelerometers attached to the telescope detected anomalous readings during a particular test. Further tests to identify the source of the anomaly are underway. The engineering team investigating the vibe anomaly has made numerous detailed visual inspections of the Webb telescope and has found no visible signs of damage.

It is a good sign that they have found no damage. It is also a good thing that they detected these issues now, on the ground, where they can fix them. Webb, almost a decade behind schedule and $8 billion over budget, will be placed at a point a million miles from Earth, where no repair crew will be able to reach it.

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GAO denied access to Webb telescope workers by Northrop Grumman

In a report as well as at House hearings today the GAO reported that Northrop Grumman has denied them one-on-one access to workers building the James Webb Space Telescope.

The interviews, part of a running series of GAO audits of the NASA flagship observatory, which is billions of dollars overbudget and years behind schedule, were intended to identify potential future trouble spots, according to a GAO official. But Northrop Grumman Aerospace, which along with NASA says the $9 billion project is back on track, cited concerns that the employees, 30 in all, would be intimidated by the process.

To give Northrop Grumman the benefit of the doubt, these interviews were a somewhat unusual request. Then again, if all was well why would they resist? Note too that the quote above says the cost of the telescope project is now $9 billion. That’s a billion increase since the last time I heard NASA discuss Webb. If the project was “back on track: as the agency and Northrop Grumman claim, than why has the budget suddenly increased by another billion?

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More problems for Webb Telescope

The final scheduled testing of the cryogenic cooler required to cool one instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope has been repeatedly delayed, from its original date of January 2014 to anywhere between April to November 2015.

The cost for this particular instrument has also ballooned since the contract was first awarded, more than doubling.

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Problems with the European Gaia space telescope

Shades of Hubble: The first data from Europe’s Gaia space telescope, launched to map a billion Milky Way stars, will be delayed 9 months while engineers grapple with several problems.

Gaia managers started taking test images early this year, but soon noticed three issues. For one, more light than anticipated is bending around the 10-metre sunshield and entering the telescope.

Small amounts of water trapped in the spacecraft before launch are being released now that the telescope is in the vacuum of space, and more ice than calculated is accumulating on the telescope’s mirrors. In addition, the telescope itself is expanding and contracting by a few dozen nanometres more than expected because of thermal variations.

Mission managers say the number of stars detected will remain the same even if these complications remain untreated, but the accuracy in measurements of the fainter stars will suffer.

Unlike Hubble, however, there is no way to send a shuttle and a team of astronauts to Gaia to fix it. And it sounds like these issues will have an impact on the telescope’s abilities to gather its intended data.

This story raises my hackles for another reason. Gaia was a very technically challenging space telescope to build, but it was far easier and less cutting edge than the James Webb Space Telescope. It also cost far less. What will happen when Webb gets launched later this decade? How likely is it to have similar issues? Based on a story I just completed for Sky & Telescope on the difficulties of building ground-based telescopes, I’d say Webb is very likely to have similar problems, with no way to fix them. The American astronomy community could then be faced with the loss of two decades of research because they had put all the eggs into Webb’s basket, and thus had no money to build anything else.

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Bolden and Mikulski hold a press conference to lobby for continuing funding for the James Webb Space Telescope.

Bolden and Mikulski hold a press conference to lobby for continuing funding for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

Before JWST entered development, around the turn of the century, program officials projected it would cost $1 billion to $3.5 billion and launch between 2007 to 2011, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Jan. 8. Now, after lengthy delays [seven years] and billions in added costs [a real budget of $8.8 billion], JWST is entering its peak development years, in which major subsystems will be put together, tested, integrated with one another, and tested again. It will be, according to Bolden, one of the most difficult parts of JWST’s construction.

“This is our tough budget year,” Bolden said. It is also the most expensive, according to projections the White House released last April with its 2014 budget proposal. Bolden spoke to the press here after he and Mikulski, JWST’s biggest ally in Congress, held a town hall meeting at Goddard, the center in charge of building the massive infrared observatory. Both NASA employees and executives from some of JWST’s major industry contractors attended.

Mikulski told reporters that automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, which reduced NASA’s 2013 appropriation to about $16.9 billion, “resulted in furloughs, shutdowns, slowdowns [and] slamdown politics [which] are exactly what could derail or cause enormous cost overruns to the James Webb.”

I am especially entertained by the disasters Mikulski lists in the last paragraph, all of which she blames on sequestration. They are identical to the lies Democratic politicians like her told before sequestration took effect, none of which happened. That she now makes believe as if these disasters did happen and expects us to believe her new lies about the future illustrates how much in contempt she holds the general public. Does she really believe people are that stupid?

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The continuing technical troubles of the James Webb Space Telescope.

The continuing technical troubles of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Though it appears they are keeping within their latest budget and scheduling margins (which is almost nine times the original budget and almost a decade behind the original schedule), the number of issues described in this article is quite worrisome.

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The GAO is concerned about the future budget and schedule of the James Webb Space Telescope.

O goody: The GAO is concerned about the future budget and schedule of the James Webb Space Telescope.

This is very bad news if true for NASA’s astronomy program. Webb was originally budgeted at $1 billion and scheduled to launch in 2011. Its budget is now $8.8 billion and its launch is now set for October 2018. And until it launches there is little money to build any other space telescope.

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Space News suggests Congress use the billions for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket to fund JWST

In an editorial yesterday Space News suggested that Congress use the billions it is allocating for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket to fund the James Webb Space Telescope instead.

This is not surprising. Webb already has a strong constiuency (astronomers, the public) while the Space Launch System has little support outside of Congress and the specific aerospace contractors who want the work. With tight budgets as far as the eye can see into the future, and the likelihood that Congress is going to become more fiscal conservative after the next election, it would not shock me in the slightest if SLS gets eliminated and the money is given to Webb. And if the SpaceX and Orbital Sciences cargo missions to ISS go well then cutting SLS would almost be a certainty, as this success would demonstrate that these private companies should be able to replace SLS for a tenth of the cost.

And I also think this would be a much wiser use of the taxpayers money.

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Another look at the cost of building NASA’s heavy lift rocket

Clark Lindsey takes another look at the cost for building the Congressionally-mandated heavy lift rocket, what NASA calls the Space Launch System and I call the program-formerly-called-Constellation. Key quote:

Finally, I’ll point out that there was certainly nothing on Wednesday that refuted the findings in the Booz Allen study that NASA’s estimates beyond the 3-5 year time frame are fraught with great uncertainty. Hutchison and Nelson claimed last week that since the near term estimates were reliable, there’s no reason to delay getting the program underway. That’s the sort of good governance that explains why programs often explode “unexpectedly” in cost after 3-5 years…

In other words, this is what government insiders call a “buy-in.” Offer low-ball budget numbers to get the project off the ground, then when the project is partly finished and the much higher real costs become evident, Congress will be forced to pay for it. Not only has this been routine practice in Washington for decades, I can instantly cite two projects that prove it:
» Read more

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Senate reinserts money for the James Webb Space Telescope

The Senate has reinstated money for completing the James Webb Space Telescope.

The allocation in today’s markup does not automatically mean that the Webb telescope has been rescued. The markup will now go to the full appropriations committee for approval before going to the Senate floor for a vote. The approved bill will then have to be reconciled with the House version, which, NASA hopes, will result in a final appropriation that keeps the telescope alive.

The House version also zeroed out funding for Webb, so reconciling the two budgets will not be easy.

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House proposes to drop NASA’s budget to 2008 levels, eliminate Webb Telescope

The House today proposed cutting NASA’s budget back to 2008 levels while eliminating all funds for the James Webb Space Telescope.

As much as I’d hate to see the Webb telescope die, it has cost far more than planned, is way behind schedule, and carries a gigantic risk of failure. However, if I had a choice, I’d rather they cut the $1.95 billion for Congress’s homemade heavy-lift rocket, the program-formerly-called-Constellation. There is a much better chance that Webb will get completed, launched, and work, than there is for this improvised and impossibly costly Congressionally conceived rocket.

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