Sunday, June 5, 2011

JWST Billions over Budget, Years Behind Schedule

An optical test engineer inspects six telescope primary mirror segments. Photo source:

Florida Today reports that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is billions over budget and years behind schedule.

Decision-makers initially were told the observatory would cost $1.6 billion and launch this year on a mission to look deeper into space and further back in time than the Hubble Space Telescope, in a quest for new clues about the formation of our universe and origins of life.

NASA now says the telescope can’t launch until at least 2018, though outside analysts suggest the flight could slip past 2020. The latest estimated price tag: up to $6.8 billion. NASA admits the launch delay will push the bill even higher.

And, scientists are worried the cost growth and schedule delays are gobbling up more and more of the nation’s astronomy budget and NASA’s attention, threatening funding for other space science programs.

The article cites an independent audit that revealed the problems.

Click here to read the audit.

Quoting from the audit's executive summary:

The problems causing cost growth and schedule delays on the JWST Project are associated with budgeting and program management, not technical performance. The technical performance on the Project has been commendable and often excellent. However, the budget baseline accepted at the Confirmation Review did not reflect the most probable cost with adequate reserves in each year of project execution. This resulted in a project that was simply not executable within the budgeted resources.

The report cites "poor program and cost control practices" and "the lack of effective oversight" by the Goddard Space Flight Center in charge of the program.

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