On July 16, NASA made a public statement announcing the fact that its largest space observatory ever designed, known as the James Webb Space Telescope, will be launched into orbit seven months later than it was supposed to be. There are two reasons for this: the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and technical issues involved with the observatory.
According to officials representing the agency, the launch of JSWT is now scheduled to be 31 October, 2021. Previously, the launch was supposed to take place at the end of March 2021. NASA’s program director for the JWST, Greg Robinson, has recently explained that the delay of over three months is due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes various issues, such as declines in the efficiency of the program and in future activities. New procedures implemented on the observatory have had to slow down. For example, work on a telescope at the Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California has slowed down tremendously, negatively affecting all of NASA’s projects. In March, work was halted completely, then it was continued at a significantly slower pace for a few months before the space agency was able to continue working in near-full shifts.
Two more months of delay are added to the schedule of the program. In the same teleconference, Robinson mentioned that the mission, which previously had only two months of schedule reserve remaining at the beginning of the year, now has about three months to comply with the best possible practices of program management. Robinson said that the agency believes that they have a robust reserve now.
The rest of the delay scheduled is meant to give officials more time to run rest activities, such as vibration and acoustic tests, also to make a deployment test of the sunshield of the spacecraft. Robinson has said that this is how the agency will learn to perform a number of activities from the beginning of the program.