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.

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


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."

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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. 

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