NASA To Provide JWST Update Tomorrow Following Independent Review

NASA To Provide JWST Update Tomorrow Following Independent Review

NASA announced late today that it will hold a media teleconference tomorrow, March 27, at 11:30 am ET, with an update on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  NASA science chief Thomas Zurbuchen said last week that the results of an independent assessment of whether JWST could meet its revised launch schedule would be released this week.  Presumably that is what this briefing is about.  He will be joined by NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot and Zurbuchen’s deputy, Dennis Andrucyk.

JWST has suffered many cost overruns and schedule delays.  Its original cost estimate was $1 billion.  After years of cost growth, in 2010 then-Senator Barbara Mikulski demanded an independent review. It faulted management, not technical, problems. After a further review by NASA, the program was restructured and a new cost estimate of $8 billion (for development, not including operations) and a launch date of October 2018 was set.  Congress has put the $8 billion cost cap into law every year since, including in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law last week.

The $8 billion estimate included cost and schedule reserves to account for “unknown unknowns” typically encountered in development programs. JWST had been performing in concert with that plan until last fall when spacecraft integration problems at the prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, were encountered.  In September, NASA announced the launch date would slip to a three-month window between the end of March and the end of June 2019.

In December, Zurbuchen told the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee that he was creating an independent review team to assess whether JWST could meet that revised schedule.  He told the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee last week that the results of the independent review would be released this week.

The briefing will be audiocast on NASA Live.

JWST is the follow-on to the Hubble Space Telescope.  It will observe the universe primarily in infrared (rather than visible) wavelengths and be able to peer back further in time as well as to see into dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.