back to article NASA stalls $8bn James Webb Space Telescope again – this time to 2020

The launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope has been kicked back a year to 2020, NASA confirmed during a press conference on Tuesday. The instrument – a 6,200kg (13,668lb) telescope designed to look at stars formed soon after the Big Bang as well as closer objects – was scheduled to launch into the heavens in October …

  1. LDS Silver badge

    It will be killed for national security reasons!

    Being a collaboration with ESA and Canada it may be more difficult to shelve it, but with a Trump administration scared of every foreign country, who knows? Maybe he'll think Europe and Canada will spy on him using the Webb.... so it will be killed "for national security reasons".

    But let's remember the Webb is a very different beast from Hubble. The latter covers from some UV to some IR and can do science that Webb, developed to be mostly a red - to - IR instrument to investigate deep in time and space, can't, so Webb it's not a larger and more modern replacement, it's a different instrument built for a more specific research, a fundamental one, but in many ways less versatile.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It will be killed for national security reasons!

      "Being a collaboration with ESA and Canada it may be more difficult to shelve it, but with a Trump administration scared of every foreign country, who knows?"

      The ESA and Canada might be asking for their money back if he shelves it. If that turns nasty they could always distrain him by a few Trump hotels and golf courses.

    2. DCFusor Silver badge

      Re: It will be killed for national security reasons!

      The trouble with knee-jerk partisanship is that you wind up creating the very fake news you decry - even more than the "side" you're "against".

      I'll just leave this here -

      Yup, the guy you hate just signed a record science funding increase. Real news.

      FWIW, just because one is wrong, doesn't mean the other isn't even more wrong. I'm tired of the crap trying to make me believe otherwise. "Get over it and fix the problems, not the blame - it's more effective".

      1. bobkn

        Re: It will be killed for national security reasons!

        Did you read the article?

        You're giving Trump credit for signing a spending bill with more science funding than what the administration requested.

        I doubt that indicates a real friendliness towards funding science. We can only speculate what Trump might have done if a line-item veto existed.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "Yup, the guy you hate just signed a record science funding increase."

        Just because Congress didn't listen to him - "Trump’s 2018 budget request zeroed funding for the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) space mission, which is set to launch in the mid-2020s, as well as NASA’s Earth-science programme."

        "While the National Science Foundation only sees a 3.9% increase in its budget over 2017 it is a significant boost from the 11% decrease proposed by the Trump administration. And the Environmental Protection Agency, which was targeted by the administration for a reduction of 36% will receive $8.1bn – the same level as in 2017."

        Meanwhile Pruitt cut from the EPA advisory boards scientist who received governmental funds for their researches, because, you know, those who are funded by the private sectors are more independent...

        But he got the big spending for the military, and he had to sign the rest as well.

        So, when someone use clear sarcasm - "It will be killed for national security reasons!" - it's not without reason...

  2. Kaltern

    Great Job there Mr USA Pres. You're single handedly fucking up everything you touch and stifling the very future of human existence.

    What's next? Cut funding to the DOE? Who needs that, just send all those kids to boot camp...

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Northrup Grumman

    The telescope is being put together by Northrup Grumman

    Is this the same Northrup Grumman that put a national security payload on a SpaceX rocket and failed to detach it properly, thereby wasting a few billion dollars in just a few minutes?

    Are they the Crapita of the American space industry?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Northrup Grumman

      I think Lockheed-Martin would be very upset if you claim that Northrup are better at wasting tax-payer money than them.

      Crapita aren't even in the same league as those two, US military money is a far vaster barrel of pork than UK government contracts.

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Stamp it as "Necessary for the Continuing Security of Israel"

    Watch congress bring in a genetically engineered money-shitting donkey if that's what it takes.

    1. MrRimmerSIR!

      Re: Stamp it as "Necessary for the Continuing Security of Israel"

      Oh FFS, can you not possibly keep dragging everything back to your pet obsession? Go and do something useful like defend JC on Guido Fawkes or the Graun with all the other Anti Zio-obsessives.

  5. vtcodger Silver badge

    Long, Not all that pretty, History

    This project was originally planned to launch in 2007 at a cost 500M USD. The most recent schedule and budget prior to this announcement was 2019 and 8.8B USD. It's now 2020 and "We'll tell you about cost later".

    Schedule and budget problems are pretty much normal for the MIC, but the Webb Observatory at 1700% (or more) over budget and 13 years behind schedule is pretty extreme even for the Aerospace industry.

    On top of which, I'm told that adaptive optics and such have made (hopefully much) cheaper earth bound telescopes more effective than was thought possible when the project was conceived in 1997 -- at least in the visible light window. The Webb observatory seems not without merit because of its IR and UV capabilities. But still, the case for simply walking away from it seems stronger than most folks realize.

    I'm not an astronomer or cosmologist -- either amateur or professional. Perhaps if I were, my opinion would be different.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Long, Not all that pretty, History

      Adaptive optics is already a winner over this, the mirror is far too small to compete with ground based AO or interferometry - but that's not its role.

      It will do some IR windows that you can't do from the ground but you can do a lot from the ground and its not clear that in a free choice you wouldn't rather spend the $10Bn on 5-10x VLTs or ALMAs or SKAs

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Long, Not all that pretty, History

        No, adaptive optics still have limitations compared to space observations. Correcting a large field of view is complex, especially since you need to rely on the "fake star" created by lasers in a very small part of the image. AO (and interferometry) is good to explore a known small object in details, far less for wide field imaging and surveys to find new interesting objects.

        There's also the issue of "background noise" - the outer space is darker than the atmosphere even at high altitudes, and it's easier to identify the fainter objects. Even a large ground based scope inevitably collects light from both the object and the atmosphere.

        Where Webb will be placed, it will have also little day/night issues for "long exposures".

    2. JeffyPoooh

      Re: Long, Not all that pretty, History

      vtc mentioned, "The Webb observatory seems not without merit because of its IR and UV capabilities."

      UV? Only IR as far as I know. Did I miss a memo?

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Long, Not all that pretty, History

        Naw. I misread something while I was looking up the overrun numbers. No UV on the Webb Observatory. Just visible light and IR.

    3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Long, Not all that pretty, History

      One question that's being asked is: Could you put an observatory on the far side of the moon for less money?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Could you put an observatory on the far side of the moon for less money"

        No - and you'll have the Sun in the sky for a long time - not helping for IR science, since you can't point the other way.

        You'll also need more satellites to relay data to Earth (or a Moon fiber network to transmit data from the visible side...)

  6. Long John Brass Silver badge

    How about...

    A kick-starter or go fund me campaign to get them across the wire?

  7. JeffyPoooh

    Overstressed heaters...

    "...A catalytic heater was also accidentally 'overstressed'..."

    Well, at least such 'overstressed heater system' incidents have never caused any problems before.

    Cough Apollo 13, 65 volts applied to a 28 volts heater system thermostat cough.

  8. WillC

    *Someone call Scotty – he'd know how to fix this thing*

    Didn't they remember Mister Scott's secret?

    James T. Kirk: How much refit time before we can take her out again?

    Montgomery Scott: Eight weeks, Sir, [Kirk opens his mouth] but ya don't have eight weeks, so I'll do it for ya in two.

    James T. Kirk: Mr.Scott. Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?

    Montgomery Scott: Certainly, Sir. How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?

    James T. Kirk: [over the intercom] Your reputation is secure, Scotty.

    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: WillC

      "Didn't they remember Mister Scott's secret?"

      Spock, it's a joke.


  9. Potemkine!


    none bigger than four inches.

    I thought that since the Mars Orbiter fiasco NASA had learned and stopped to use these medieval measures.

    1. Pete4000uk

      Re: Inches?

      It's the new fangled French thing they stopped using. It was costing to much to convert everything

  10. Faux Science Slayer

    "Perplexing Apollo Questions for NASA" at FauxScienceSlayer

    Unable to 'place a man on the Moon in this decade' the NASA clowns faked the 'giant leap'

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: "Perplexing Apollo Questions for NASA" at FauxScienceSlayer

      Just go pleasure yourself somewhere would you. None of those questions are perplexing or even difficult to answer if you'd just bother using google. Seriously, as an example of the idiocy displayed: "How did the astronauts transfer from the CM to the LM when there is a rocket engine in the way".... They didn't. The first move in space was to detach the CM from the upper stage, flip it around, dock it to the top of the LM and extract the LM from the upper stage. Then it was a simple matter of opening the hatch and transferring the crew. It's not hard, that info is out there on 10 gazillion sites. Are you REALLY that thick or does being told you're a moron make you feel special?

      To those wondering why I bothered giving this idiot a click on his website: I couldn't resist looking at just how mindbogglingly stupid this guy really is. I've ignored his posts on here for so long I could no longer resist and just had to see what idiotic flavour of "they didn't land on the moon" this moron believes in. Consider my curiosity sated.

      1. Alistair Silver badge

        Re: "Perplexing Apollo Questions for NASA" at FauxScienceSlayer

        @ Imanidiot:

        I've given (some time ago) that cesspit of irrational, illogical and disconnected thought a view. I believe it took my logical processing unit several weeks to recover from the despair for the future of human intelligence that resulted. I offer you my condolences for having to expose yourself to that.

    2. Milton

      Re: "Perplexing Apollo Questions for NASA" at FauxScienceSlayer

      May I suggest to the Designated Carer of FSS that it's time to review the schedule of this person's medications?

  11. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    They could easily get funding to continue the project

    Move it to Alabama.

  12. S4qFBxkFFg

    "As it's going to be positioned a million miles from Earth, repairs in space will be impossible so it needs to work right first time and stay working. "

    Talk like that is just going to provoke a "Hold my beer!" from Elon.

    What's the downmass capability of the BFR going to be anyway?

    1. asphytxtc

      > What's the downmass capability of the BFR going to be anyway?

      About 50t from LEO

    2. Spudley

      No, it really will be un-servicable.

      L2 really is a very very long way away and difficult to get to (it's easier to go to Mars). And even if BFR could get to it, it is not designed to be serviced; you can't just take spare parts and swap them out. And components such as the sun shield are extremely fragile once deployed and would almost certainly be damaged by any attempt to conduct repairs.

  13. Spudley

    Not mentioned in the article was the fact that when JWST was first proposed, the budget was $200 million (not billion), and the launch date would have been 2007.

    The geek in me is still excited about what this thing will be able to do once it gets into space, but I can't stop getting a bit angry when I look at the ever-growing delays and disparity in the numbers.

    Another thing to think about: JWST is booked to fly on an Ariane 5 rocket. The Ariane 5 program ends in 2022. Let's hope they finish building the thing in time to actually get it up it without having to re-negotiate the launch contract as well. (if this happens, it would have to go on an Ariane 6 for political reasons, even if BFR or New Glenn could do it for less. But Ariane is also chosen for its reliability record; they're also not going to put something this expensive on Ariane 6 until it's proven itself reliable, and given the launch rate of Ariane, that would mean another year of delay).

  14. Anonymous Coward

    humans are human, and, well, we all make mistakes

    Unless there is an alien saboteur with something it doesn't want us to see.

  15. andrewj

    Why does NASA have to spend an additional cent for what are Northrop's f***ups?

  16. ThatOne Silver badge

    Once is accident, two is conincidence, three is enemy action, isn't it

    > a transducer was found to be incorrectly powered [...] used the incorrect solvent [...] valves had to be stripped out and replaced [...] catalytic heater was also accidentally "overstressed"

    Sounds like there is a whole team dedicated to breaking expensive things. Not a specialist, but this doesn't sound like the right way to do things to me...

  17. MT Field

    It will be killed for idelogical reasons

    It will be powerful enough to make potentially blasphemous observations and that means the god-lobby want it killed off. Welcome to the new dark ages.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scarier than all mentioned

    What's scariest is the long sequence of complicated actions that must be accomplished, on schedule, while in route to L2, with any failure along that way being a possible single-point-of-failure that brings the whole enterprise to a crashing halt, forever. That is, is this even good systems design?

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