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There’s very little chance the James Webb Space Telescope will meet its deadline

Published Jan 30th, 2020 8:08PM EST
james webb delay
Image: NASA

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The saga of the James Webb Space Telescope is a long and sad one. The high-powered space-gazing tool has been in development for decades and was originally planned to launch way back in 2007. Over time, the list of changes, delays, and missed deadlines piled up, and based on a new report from the United States Government Accountability Office, that trend is likely to continue.

As Ars Technica reports, the telescope’s current planned launch date of March 2021 is now little more than a pipe dream. Despite what NASA says, the government oversight group believes there’s only a 12% chance that the telescope will actually meet its planned date.

The main contractor working on the telescope for NASA is Northrop Grumman. Over the past few years, the US government has grown increasingly impatient with the progress (or lack thereof) being made on the telescope, with lawmakers demanding answers regarding the massive cost overruns and huge delays.

Investigations into the delays and missed deadlines revealed a whole host of inexcusable human errors on the part of Northrop Grumman, including using the wrong bolts to secure components and even using the wrong kind of cleaning solvent, causing major problems and requiring that work be reversed and redone.

Throughout the project’s lengthy timeline, the budget has ballooned from a modest $500 million to over $9.5 billion. With setbacks and cost overruns like that, you can bet the government isn’t happy with Northrop Grumman’s progress. Nevertheless, the project remains in the company’s hands, and it looks like oversight officials are already preparing for the company to have to delay the completion of the highly anticipated telescope yet again.

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