NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope has been a work in progress for what feels like nearly two decades now. Many anticipate what the space observatory might contribute to modern science, but it now appears that we’ll have to wait a bit longer before that happens.
Image Credit: NASA
An official statement released by NASA on Tuesday reveals how the James Webb Space Telescope’s 2019 launch date is getting pushed back even further. The new projected launch date, pegged for May of 2020, will give the space agency more time for ‘testing and evaluation.’
“Webb is the highest priority project for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, and the largest international space science project in U.S. history,” said Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s current acting administrator.
“All the observatory’s flight hardware is now complete. However, the issues brought to light with the spacecraft element are prompting us to take the necessary steps to refocus our efforts on the completion of this ambitious and complex observatory.”
While a significant portion of the James Webb Space Telescope has been fully assembled and thoroughly tested, the entire observatory isn’t quite finished yet.
NASA calls the James Webb Space Telescope its “highest priority project,” and given just how many resources the space agency has tied up into the project as of now, it wouldn’t make sense to take shortcuts. NASA wants to take its time ensuring everything goes as expected, both before and after launch.
“Considering the investment NASA and our international partners have made, we want to proceed systematically through these last tests, with the additional time necessary, to be ready for a May 2020 launch,” added Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
As of now, the James Webb Space Telescope’s spacecraft element is next in line to undergo testing. If it passes, NASA will attach the observatory’s hardware to it and then proceed with testing the fully-assembled unit. Only after it moves beyond this barrage of tests will NASA consider the finished product “space ready.”
Will NASA finally meet its new projected launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope? Who knows… but these delays should all be worth it in the end when the observatory helps us answer many of the underlying questions we have about our universe.