NASA has again delayed the launch of its James Webb Space Telescope, this time because of how coronavirus has impacted work crews, news agency reported. The telescope was scheduled for launch in March 2021 after a number of delays. However, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a Thursday meeting of the Space Studies Board of the National Academies that COVID-19 has caused work to fall behind schedule.
“We will not launch in March,” Zurbuchen said. “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.” A March 2021 launch date already seemed ambitious pre-COVID-19 — a January report from the Government Accountability Office said that date may not be feasible “based on a detailed assessment of risks, costs, and schedule.” After the Pandemic struck, Space News reported NASA and contractor Northrup Grumman cut crews’ work from 12, 10-hour shifts per week to five, eight-hour shifts per week.
Work is ongoing, and Zurbuchen said he’s hopeful the telescope can still launch sometime in 2021. As recently as Tuesday, NASA successfully tested an extendable part of the device known as the Deployable Tower Assembly, according to the NASA blog.
The JWST is an “orbiting infrared observatory” and is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The project has already suffered several delays due to the intricacy of construction it requires.