NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will likely miss its rescheduled launch date of March...

Humza

Posts: 799   +161
Staff member

For curious minds, the James Webb Space Telescope seems to take forever to make its way into space and report back data about the origins and mysteries of the universe. The project has faced several delays since inception, leading to a 95 percent increase in development costs, and now it looks like it won't be making its March 30, 2021 launch date as announced in 2018.

The GAO annually audits NASA's progress on the JWST program and in its eighth report, the agency "assessed the extent to which (1) the JWST project is executing within the revised schedule and cost targets established in 2018, and (2) NASA implemented and sustained key improvements to performance and oversight undertaken since 2018."

It found that the project faced new technical challenges that not only consumed a large portion of the schedule reserve but also resulted in longer employment of the contractor workforce than planned, potentially adding to project costs. "NASA continues to monitor multiple, other risks that could place further schedule and cost strains on the project" notes the report.

NASA's replanning of the project in June 2018 after "technical and workmanship issues" saw the space agency addressing "all recommendations" from an independent review board. It had also managed to achieve a number of integration and testing milestones, such as deployment of the secondary mirror assembly and observatory level testing.

"The cost and schedule analysis completed by the project in October 2019 indicated that the project will not exceed the cost commitment established in the 2018 replan even if launch is delayed further by a few months," says GAO, adding that officials deem the project funding to be sufficient to continue work "even if the launch date slips 3-4 months past the March 2021 launch date."

As for recommendations, GAO doesn't have any new ones at this time. The government agency notes that its made "several recommendations to NASA on the management of this project in previous reports and NASA has agreed with and taken action on many of them," with the most recent being a joint cost and schedule level analysis for the project which NASA completed in October 2019.

A new launch date for JWST is expected to be announced later this year by NASA as it works its way through the troubled project.

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Uncle Al

Posts: 7,985   +6,758
I do hope this time they coordinated their measuring system for components. You know, either ALL English or Metric ..... just a suggestion
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,637   +3,826
I do hope this time they coordinated their measuring system for components. You know, either ALL English or Metric ..... just a suggestion
I get it - its a joke.

If anyone thinks you can tack a schedule that will have all its dates met on a cutting-edge project like this, then I think that they have no idea how innovation works. We all know what happened to Hubble - while Kodak (of note, the same division is working on the JWST under a different owner) had a perfect mirror in storage.

My bet is that there was a drive to meet deadlines with Hubble, and look at what we got; it was very fortunate that someone was able to design and implement a work-around which came at a cost of sacrificing other instruments that were part of the original Hubble telescope.

However, with JWST, it has to be as close to perfect as possible due to where it will be in solar system. There is NO CHANCE of fixing it once it is in orbit.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,719   +1,821
They tried to make too big of a technological jump past the Hubble Space Telescope. Same thing as Intel with their 10nm process.

I'm a hardcore space stuff junkie but this thing has been annoying me more and more the the past 4 or 5 years and now it only gonna take longer. They should have shot a little lower and more reasonably.
 

neeyik

Posts: 1,713   +1,964
Staff member
I get it - its a joke.
It's probably not. This has happened before.

However, with JWST, it has to be as close to perfect as possible due to where it will be in solar system. There is NO CHANCE of fixing it once it is in orbit.
This is true for any mission that goes out of LEO (well, any mission now given the lack of any retrieval system like the Shuttle). Granted, nothing really matches the scale and complexity of the observation platform that JWST is, but plenty of other platforms and probes have kept reasonably close to their planned launched schedules.

I suspect that the main cause in the delay is that the project has been so expensive and run so much behind schedule that the managers are just not willing to take any gambles with failures, of any magnitude, once launched, as it will have a significant affect on future projects with the same level of ambition and scope (pun not intended).
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,637   +3,826
It's probably not. This has happened before.
Yeah, I know. NASA is one of the few organizations (or businesses) in the world that is CMM level 5 compliant. They admitted and learned from the mistake and then moved on as is evidenced by several high-profile successes and no evidence of any "units" failures since then. That is what CMM level 5 compliance brings to the table. Unfortunately, at least as I see it, others have not moved on as well.

This is true for any mission that goes out of LEO (well, any mission now given the lack of any retrieval system like the Shuttle). Granted, nothing really matches the scale and complexity of the observation platform that JWST is, but plenty of other platforms and probes have kept reasonably close to their planned launched schedules.

I suspect that the main cause in the delay is that the project has been so expensive and run so much behind schedule that the managers are just not willing to take any gambles with failures, of any magnitude, once launched, as it will have a significant affect on future projects with the same level of ambition and scope (pun not intended).
As should anyone dealing with that amount of money, IMO.
 
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neeyik

Posts: 1,713   +1,964
Staff member
As should anyone dealing with that amount of money, IMO.
True, but there comes a point where you just have to commit and then resolve or work around problems when they arrive. That said, if it was me making such decisions, I would be erring on the far side of caution too.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,637   +3,826
I do not have direct knowledge of the issues, however, I do have an iota of experience at attempting to create something that never before existed.
True, but there comes a point where you just have to commit and then resolve or work around problems when they arrive. That said, if it was me making such decisions, I would be erring on the far side of caution too.
With all due respect, I get your point that you would err on the side of caution, as would I; however, I am sure they are resolving or working around problems. Most of NASA's recent missions have been highly successful, and I think that is likely because of the processes that surround CMM Level 5 compliance which aims at continuous improvement.

I'll assume no untoward circumstances such as corruption or workers who have no expertise in the field are involved, and I will say this. Almost every spacecraft that NASA builds is a unique craft that likely employs something that has never been done quite that way before if it has ever been done at all. While they likely use "off-the-shelf" components (I don't know about you, though they can be called off-the-shelf, I hardly call components such as radiation hardened electronics normal consumer off-the-shelf components) in many instances, many of the things they build, including things that use off-the-shelf components as part of a larger component, have never been built before. This is literally science at a level where what comes out ends up flying in one of the most extreme environments known to humanity.

From my point of view, this is exceptionally difficult and challenging work of which those of us looking in from the outside have little understanding.

If you have never seen Moon Machines, I highly recommend checking to see if your local library has a copy of it, and if it does, borrow it. It is about the Apollo program. Most of the hardware that went to the moon had to be invented before going to the moon. The series is a documentary that does an excellent job of summarizing the efforts that went into making moon machines from scratch. When I saw it, it gave me far more appreciation for the challenges that were involved and how the overcame those challenges.

And there are interesting facts, too. Such as when the Rocketdyne F1 engine, that was used on the first stage of the Saturn V, was first fired up on a test stand, windows broke miles away.

I doubt that many people know this, but Man's first moon landing was scheduled for something like the summer of 1968. As we all know, it did not actually occur until July of 1969. With the nature of the work, delays are, IMO, to be expected.

Though technology is obviously more advanced now than it was during the Apollo program, as I see it, the fundamental aspect, building hardware that never before existed, remains the same. They do work that has no second chance and thus, cannot be taken lightly. I would rather see them say, "we are not ready yet" many times over the course of the project than fly something because of pressure from entities that have never been involved in this kind of innovation.

This is difficult work - to an extreme. IMO, it is somewhat of a wonder that they have any success at all.
 
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