The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope is one of the most anticipated events in the astronomical community as the powerful space observatory could provide the answer to a variety of questions. However, it seems that researchers will have to wait a little more.
NASA has announced recently that the launch will be delayed again as a variety of disruptions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the current schedule, which targeted a launch in March 2021. The new date is October 31, 2021.
The new delay was already predicted by the Government Accountability Office. According to an extensive internal, a significant part of the delay is represented was caused by the need to impose strict social distancing and other hygiene measures that would prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Smaller shifts were needed, and employees couldn’t interact with hardware until it was disinfected.
The coronavirus pandemic is not the sole culprit since it can be tied to three months of delay. An additional two months were added by issues tied to the primary contractor for the project, Northrop Grumman. The company ran into several technical issues again, which caused supplementary problems.
A complicated history
It is worth noting that the James Webb Space Telescope has been affected by a range of issues since the early stages of development. Initial plans involved a launch window between 2007 and 2011, accompanied by a cost that reached up to $3.5 billion.
The Congress revamped the project in 2011, raising the cap to $8 billion and mentioning a 2018 launch date. However, in 2018 NASA decided to delay the project again, arguing that additional funding was needed to launch and operate the device in space while also setting a March 2021 launch date.
A NASA spokesperson has stated that there will not be other delays, and the launch will take place on October 31, 2021.