While NASA has had some big announcements to come out of its space enterprises in recent years, they have primarily come as the result of long-standing missions that were launched during an era when the organization was better funded, or perhaps better at using its limited funding, to get new experiments off the ground. In the modern era, NASA press releases about new missions usually come in one of two flavors: either the announcement of a ground breaking new mission they drew on a white board and hope someone will pay for, or the inevitable announcement that said mission will once again be delayed.
One of those groundbreaking new missions, the famed James Webb Space Telescope that is slated to replace the aging Hubble as our world’s most powerful lens into the dark expanse of the universe, now falls under that second category, as NASA announced this week that its launch will be delayed nearly year, until the summer of 2019.
According to NASA’s press release regarding the delay, it is required to complete testing on the telescope, particularly its sunshield, despite stipulating that testing has been “going well and on schedule.”
Webb’s spacecraft and sunshield are larger and more complex than most spacecraft. The combination of some integration activities taking longer than initially planned, such as the installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, factoring in lessons learned from earlier testing, like longer time spans for vibration testing, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer,” said Eric Smith, program director for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Considering the investment NASA has made, and the good performance to date, we want to proceed very systemmatically through these tests to be ready for a Spring 2019 launch.”