NASA Delays Mars Rover, James Webb Telescope Launch

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 12, 2020

The delay is the latest in a long line of setbacks that has seen the project's budget and timeline swell.

NASA announced earlier this week that it's made a decision to delay the launch of its new Mars Perseverance Rover.

Perseverance was originally supposed to launch on July 17. However, Tony Bruno, the CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), noted via Twitter that the company's Atlas V launch rocket experienced an issue with the crane.

Although the technical issue had already been resolved, NASA postponed the launch of Perseverance to provide adequate time for the teams involved in the mission to prepare for the event. As noted by NASA, the mission's new launch schedule will be on July 20. Unlike Perseverance's mission, however, the agency has not set a new launch date for the space telescope.

In addition to the rover, NASA has also agreed to delay the launch of another big project, the James Webb Space Telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to Hubble, and has been in construction in some form since 1989. NASA was originally targeting March 2021 as the potential launch window of the space-based observatory.

According to Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's Science Mission Directorate administrator, the current outbreak has significantly impacted NASA's operations regarding space telescope production. Aside from cutting down on work hours, NASA's workforce was also hit by positive cases of COVID-19.

"We will not launch in March; that is not in the cards right now", Zurbuchen said during a recent meeting of the Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, according to Space.com. Due to the shutdowns, all shifts that were working on the telescope that would usually be fully staffed weren't. As a result, time was lost.

The telescope had been undergoing integration and testing at a Northrop Grumman Space Systems facility in California when the first cases of coronavirus began to be reported in the US. Zurbuchen said he's still hopeful that at some point in 2021, a launch will happen.

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