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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope delayed again, this time by COVID-19

The space agency's biggest space observatory was once slated to launch in 2007.

webbmirrors
The James Webb Space Telescope tests the unfolding of its secondary mirror system.
NASA

Three full decades after the Hubble Space Telescope launched, its successor remains in launch limbo as a NASA executive says its James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed once again. 

JWST has been under development in some form since 1989 and at one point a launch was planned for 2007. That date has been pushed back over a dozen times and now the launch date officially stands at March 2021. However, SpaceNews reports Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, told science leaders Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause the launch date to slip yet again.

"We will not launch in March," Zurbuchen told a meeting of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's Space Studies Board. "That is not in the cards right now... It's not anyone's fault or mismanagement."

Zurbuchen said that the pandemic and the resulting shutdowns made it impossible to keep all of the shifts working on the telescope fully staffed and time has been lost as a result.

NASA and Northrop Grumman, the primary contractor behind building JWST, are reviewing the schedule and hope to set a new launch date by the end of July. 

Zurbuchen said he's still hopeful a launch can happen at some point in 2021.