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NASA delays launch of next-gen space telescope until 2020

NASA is now targeting May 2020 for the launch of its James Webb Space Telescope, the $8 billion dollar Hubble successor

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NASA Seeks Partnership With US Industry to Develop First Gateway Element
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NASA is now targeting May 2020 for the launch of its James Webb Space Telescope, the $8 billion dollar Hubble successor. The announcement on Tuesday made after an independent assessment of remaining tasks for the highly complex space observatory further pushes the launch target of the next-generation space telescope by about a year.

“Webb is the highest priority project for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, and the largest international space science project in US history,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

ISS is a permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
The next-gen space telescope will now be released in 2020. Wikimedia Commons

“All the observatory’s flight hardware is now complete, however, the issues brought to light with the spacecraft element are prompting us to take the necessary steps to refocus our efforts on the completion of this ambitious and complex observatory,” Lightfoot said.

Testing the hardware on the observatory’s telescope element and spacecraft element demonstrate that these systems individually meet their requirements. However, recent findings from the project’s Standing Review Board (SRB) indicate more time is needed to test and integrate these components together and then perform environmental testing at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, the project’s observatory contractor.

Also Read: NASA’s instrument to measure Sun’s energy

NASA said it is also establishing an external Independent Review Board (IRB), chaired by Thomas Young, a highly respected NASA and industry veteran who is often called on to chair advisory committees and analyse organisational and technical issues.

NASA will consider the findings and recommendations of both the boards’ findings for defining a more specific launch time frame. The US space agency will then provide its assessment in a report to Congress this summer.

Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. NASA will work with its partner, ESA, on a new launch readiness date for the Ariane 5 vehicle that will launch Webb into space.

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NASA will research more before working on the telescope. IANS

ESA is providing the Ariane 5 as part of its scientific collaboration. Once a new launch readiness date is determined, NASA said it will provide a cost estimate that may exceed the projected $8 billion development cost to complete the final phase of testing and prepare for launch.

Additional steps to address project challenges include increasing NASA engineering oversight, personnel changes, and new management reporting structures. “Considering the investment NASA and our international partners have made, we want to proceed systematically through these last tests, with the additional time necessary, to be ready for a May 2020 launch,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. IANS

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Soyuz Rocket’s Crew Say That They Trust The Rocket ,Post Previous Failure

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly.

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Russian Rocket, Soyuz
From left: CSA astronaut David Saint Jacques, Russian cosmonaut Оleg Kononenko‎ and U.S. astronaut Anne McClain pose in a mock-up of a Soyuz space craft at Russian Space Training Center in Star City, Russia. VOA

A U.S. astronaut said on Thursday she had full confidence in the safety of the Russian-made Soyuz rocket that will blast a three-person crew into space next month in the first such launch since a rocket failure.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and U.S. and Canadian astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are due to embark for the International Space Station on Dec. 3 after a similar launch on Oct. 11 ended in an emergency landing.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
Head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin addresses the media upon the arrival of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague at Baikonur airport, Kazakhstan. VOA

Two minutes into that launch, a rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague to abort their mission and hurtle back to Earth in a capsule that landed in the Kazakh steppe. The two were unharmed.

Speaking at a news conference in Star City near Moscow, McClain said that occasional failures were inevitable, but that the mishap with the Soyuz-FG in October had demonstrated the reliability of its emergency safety mechanisms.

“We trust our rocket. We’re ready to fly,” she said at the conference also attended by her colleagues Kononenko and Saint-Jacques.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
A view shows the Soyuz capsule that carried U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin, after it made an emergency landing, near the city of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan. VOA

“A lot of people called it an accident, or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of it not being safe, but for us it’s exactly the opposite because our friends came home,” McClain told reporters.

Also Read: A Successful Emergency Landing For US-Russian Space Rocket

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Soviet era-cosmodrome at Baikonur from where McClain, Saint Jacques and Kononenko are due to launch.

Ahead of their mission, an unmanned rocket carrying cargo is due to launch on Nov 16. in what will be the first Soyuz-FG take-off from Baikonur since the mishap. (VOA)