In brief: NASA has confirmed that the James Webb Space Telescope won't be ready in time for its scheduled March 2021 launch. For once, the delay isn't the result of mismanagement or cost concerns, but rather, the global pandemic.
Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the science mission directorate at NASA, revealed during a recent online meeting of the Space Studies Board that the James Webb Space Telescope will not launch in March 2021 as scheduled.
NASA, if you recall, said in late March that it was suspending integration and testing operations on the telescope due to Covid-19 containment measures. That was apparently only partially correct as, according to Space News, some activities did continue albeit at a slower pace than before the pandemic.
“We will not launch in March,” Zurbuchen said during the meeting, per Ars Technica. “Absolutely we will not launch in March. That is not in the cards right now. That's not because they did anything wrong. It's not anyone's fault or mismanagement,” he added.
That’s no surprise, really, considering the project was already on the brink of being postponed for the umpteenth time. Even before the pandemic, the US Government Accountability Office concluded that there was just a 12 percent chance that the telescope would meet its scheduled March 2021 launch.
The James Webb Telescope was originally scheduled to launch into space in 2007 but has been pushed back time and again due to various cost and technical issues.
The team is planning to review its schedule in July and could have a new target launch date to share shortly after.