An official report of NASA says that giant James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled on time and will proceed as per the budget without any delay.
According to a report by Scientific American, NASA administrator John Grunsfeld assured Congress last week that the $8.8-billion telescope is on target to launch in 2018 as planned. Development funding for the JWST is currently the largest piece of NASA’s project budget.
The telescope is named after James Webb, a former NASA administrator, and will succeed Hubble as the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. Its informational site courtesy of NASA describes new technologies developed for the project, such as an 18-part segmented, self-adjusting mirror, and special programmable shutters which will allow for observation of 100 different objects at a time. The telescope is scheduled to launch in October of 2018, bound for a vantage point one million miles from Earth.
First, of course, it must be completed and run through a series of tests designed to simulate the rigors of space. The latest challenge requiring troubleshooting has involved the “cryocooler,” a component designed to keep heat from interfering with the function of the JWST’s highly sensitive infrared camera.
A space telescope with glitches is not new to science; the Hubble telescope needed repairs early in its mission, and was fixed by astronauts delivered by space shuttle. The JWST, however, is not designed to be serviced while in space, and that fact alongside the telescope’s current design difficulties had policymakers worried.
Grunsfeld does not believe there is cause for alarm regarding the telescope’s planned completion. “The James Webb Space Telescope has been making exceptional progress,” Grunsfeld said. “I have confidence that we will be ready to launch this ambitious observatory in 2018.”