The successor to NASA’s famed Hubble Space Telescope won’t get off the ground next year after all. NASA has pushed the planned launch of the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope from October 2018 to the spring of 2019, citing spacecraft-integration issues. The targeted launch window is now March 2019 to June 2019, NASA officials added. Such precise infrared observations are possible only if James Webb is kept extremely cold. Testing of the telescope and science instruments is proceeding well at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, agency officials said.
“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, James Webb Space Telescope program director at NASA headquarters, in the same statement.
Unlike the Earth-orbiting Hubble, James Webb will therefore be too distant for spacewalking astronauts to service and repair.