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Webb telescope delayed past 2018?

jwst.jpg Hubble’s successor — the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — is in a heap of trouble. Things were already bad in October, when it was supposed to launch in 2014 and its price tag stood at $5 billion. Then in November, an independent review said its costs had risen to $6.5 billion and that it would not launch until 2015.

Now, a review board says the 6-metre segmented telescope may not even get off the ground in 2018. A baseline plan that includes the telescope launching in fiscal year 2018 is “unfeasible”, according to an internal memo from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that was first disclosed today by NASAWatch.

That means the price tag will surely rise further, since the mission has to maintain a marching army of contractors and technicians until launch.

Prominent astronomers still say that JWST will be sensational in spite of its cost. But what’s the point of spending months drafting a careful ranking of other important astronomy projects for the next decade if there isn’t money for anything other than JWST?

UPDATE: NASA public affairs released a statement Friday afternoon. It states, “NASA is still developing and discussing a new cost and schedule baseline plan for JWST. It’s simply premature to make any conclusions until a plan is completed and reviewed within the agency and by an outside team of experts.”


  1. Report this comment

    F. Wolthausen said:

    When is enough, enough? What’s happened to the standards we used to move on without the SSC, decades ago? Is it that just a few individual administrators/senators now wield so much more power? We need the guts to declare JWST “not too big to fail” in order to save a larger part of the US astrophysical community from further pain (and embarrassment).

  2. Report this comment

    Tom Wells said:

    The standards we used to move on without SSC?!? Seriously? The cancellation of the SSC completely decimated particle physics in this country. It eventually recovered, but overseas. Cancel JWST, and we will fold up space astronomy, too.

  3. Report this comment

    M Henri Day said:

    Two suggestions : 1) devote some of that vastly inflated military budget to scientific pursuits, rather than to foreign wars, and 2) remove Frank Wolf’s ill-conceived provision banning any type of cooperation with China from the NASA appropriations bill and start cooperating in earnest with scientists in that country, both on ISS projects and on the Webb telescope….


  4. Report this comment

    daniel said:

    All large scale projects suffer from this problem.

    There is pressure to reduce the budget, ignore risks.

    So you end up in a situation where it takes much more time and money to fix the problems you were ignoring (or weren’t aware of) than if you could give an realistic estimate in the first place (and not be fired / have the project cancelled).

    Large, novel projects will always be like this unfortunately.

    The cost does seem to be completely insane. Im not sure where the money is going, the fact its going to be put into a lagrange orbit means it has to work because we can’t repair anything that far out. Even so.. it seems expenseive 🙂 Its probably man hour costs. Delays cause huge blow outs in costs if you have a large team. Especially if its a decade delayed 🙂

  5. Report this comment

    Russell Seitz said:

    I for one welcome the rechristening of the Bill Gates Space Telescope after its proud new owner, as long as it provides distant early warning of our alien masters approach,

    Full Mac download compatibility would be nice too.

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