Worker errors repeatedly postpone NASA’s new telescope

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

NASA has announced an extended postponement Wednesday for the James Webb Space Telescope. The space agency reports that the observatory will now fly no earlier than 2021, with previous launch dates established for 2018.

With foreseen telescope expenses reaching $10 billion, concerns now arise as development costs singly exceed the $8 billion cap set by Congress by more than $800 million and require reauthorization.

An independent review board cites worker error and embedded hardware problems for much of the escalating costs and delays.

In a vibration test of the telescope earlier this year in California by prime contractor Northrop Grumman, dozens of loose fasteners — some 70 pieces in all — came off. A few pieces are still missing and could well be inside the observatory. The lock nuts were not tightened properly before the test, according to a report by the board.

In another mishap, the wrong solvent was used to clean spacecraft propulsion valves. No one bothered checking to see whether the cleaner might damage the equipment, said review board chairman Tom Young. The valves had to be repaired or replaced.

“We will not sacrifice quality for schedule. Mission success is our number one priority,” spokesman Tim Paynter said in a statement.

Amid numerous and repetitive problems, the review board urges that the project continues given its “compelling” scientific potential and national importance.