NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Achieves Milestone of Successfully Withstanding Launch Stresses

A full-length shot of Webb’s impressive mirror. (Credit:  NASA/Chris Gunn)

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 21, 2019 (Northrop Grumman PR) – At Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) in Redondo Beach, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope successfully validated its ability to perform key deployments for the first time since its post environmental testing of the Spacecraft Element (SCE) and integration of the SCE and Optical Telescope Element/Integrated Science Instrument Module (OTIS).

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Senate Appropriators Boost NASA’s Budget by $1.25 Billion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) – The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, which makes investments to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.

The $70.833 billion measure is $6.715 billion above the FY2019 enacted level and funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and related agencies. 

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Northrop Grumman Fully Assembles NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

A full-length shot of Webb’s impressive mirror. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Aug. 28, 2019 (Northrop Grumman PR) – At Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) in Redondo Beach, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Spacecraft Element (SCE) and Optical Telescope Element/Integrated Science Instrument Module (OTIS) are now one. Both halves of the telescope (SCE and OTIS) have been successfully assembled.

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Emerges Successfully from Final Thermal Vacuum Test

Technicians and engineers needed to take special precautions when preparing, and transporting Webb’s spacecraft element for entry into Northrop Grumman’s environmental testing chambers. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

LOS ANGELES (NASA PR) — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has successfully cleared another critical testing milestone, taking this ambitious observatory one step closer to its 2021 launch. The spacecraft has gone through its final thermal vacuum test meant to ensure that its hardware will function electronically in the vacuum of space, and withstand the extreme temperature variations it will encounter on its mission.

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GAO Letter Outlines NASA’s Open Priority Recommendations

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has not implemented nearly one third of the recommendations for improvements that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made to it four years earlier, the government watchdog agency said.

“In November 2018, we reported that on a government-wide basis, 77 percent of our recommendations made 4 years ago were implemented,” GAO said in an April 12 letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“NASA’s recommendation implementation rate was 70 percent. As of February 2019, NASA had 51 open recommendations. Fully implementing these open recommendations could significantly improve NASA’s operations.” GAO added.

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NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

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NASA’s Webb Space Telescope to Inspect Atmospheres of Gas Giant Exoplanets

This is an artist’s impression of the Jupiter-size extrasolar planet, HD 189733b, being eclipsed by its parent star. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the planet’s atmosphere. The planet is a “hot Jupiter,” which is so close to its star that it completes an orbit in only 2.2 days. The planet is too hot for life as we know it. But under the right conditions, on a more Earth-like world, carbon dioxide can indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life. This observation demonstrates that chemical biotracers can be detected by space telescope observations.[Credits: ESA, NASA, M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble), and STScI]
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In April 2018, NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Its main goal is to locate Earth-sized planets and larger “super-Earths” orbiting nearby stars for further study.  One of the most powerful tools that will examine the atmospheres of some planets that TESS discovers will be NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Since observing small exoplanets with thin atmospheres like Earth will be challenging for Webb, astronomers will target easier, gas giant exoplanets first.

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Webb Space Telescope Problems: Excessive Voltage, Wrong Solvent & Loose Nuts

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit: NASA)

NASA established the Independent Review Board (IRB) in April to evaluate the space agency’s $8 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The report, released last month, revealed a number of eye opening details about problems that NASA and the prime contractor, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS), have been experiencing in building the telescope and managing the program. Below are some key excerpts.

Independent Review Board Report
NASA James Webb Space Telescope

Full Report

Selected Excerpts

There have been several JWST Project problems due to human-induced errors that had substantial cost and schedule impact. In one case, an improper solvent was used to clean propulsion system valves that had been stored. The error was a failure to check with the valve vendor to ensure the solvent to be used was recommended and would not damage the valves. The valves had to be removed from the spacecraft, repaired or replaced, and reinstalled.

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James Webb Space Telescope Launch Slips into 2021, Cost Overruns

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit; NASA)

Costs Rise from $8.8 Billion to $9.66 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The Independent Review Board (IRB) established by NASA to assess progress on its James Webb Space Telescope has unanimously recommended that development on the world’s premier science observatory should continue; NASA has established a new launch date for Webb of March 30, 2021.

A report issued by the review board addresses a range of factors influencing Webb’s schedule and performance, including the technical challenges and tasks remaining by primary contractor Northrop Grumman before launch.

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GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Keeps Slipping Into the Future

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit; NASA)

NASA’s massive James Webb Space Telescope continues to pile up cost overruns and schedule delays as it prepares to exceed the $8 billion cap placed on the program by Congress.

“The project and observatory contractor significantly underestimated the time required to complete integration and test work on the spacecraft element,” according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Execution of spacecraft integration and test tasks was much slower than planned due to a variety of challenges including complexity of work and reach and access limitations on flight hardware.

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House Measure Would Boost NASA Budget to $21.5 Billion

The House Appropriations Committee has released a draft bill that would increase NASA’s budget to $21.5 billion for fiscal year 2019. The total would be an increase of $810 million above the enacted amount for FY 2018 and $1.6 billion more than the Trump Administration requested.

NASA would spend $5.1 billion on deep space exploration, an increase of $294 million. The total includes $504 million for the Lunar Orbital Platform — Gateway.

Science would also be boosted by $459 million to $6.7 billion. The total includes $740 million for a Europa orbiter and lander.

Complete details on the proposed budget are still lacking. Below is what the committee has released thus far.
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NASA’s Major Project Costs & Schedule Performance Deteriorated in 2018

NASA: Assessments of Major Projects
Government Accountability Office
May 1, 2018
Full Report

What GAO Found

The cost and schedule performance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) portfolio of major projects has deteriorated, but the extent of cost performance deterioration is unknown. NASA expects cost growth for the Orion crew capsule—one of the largest projects in the portfolio—but does not have a current cost estimate. In addition, the average launch delay for the portfolio was 12 months, the highest delay GAO has reported in its 10 years of assessing major NASA projects (see figure below).

The deterioration in portfolio performance was the result of 9 of the 17 projects in development experiencing cost or schedule growth.

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NASA Delays Launch of James Webb Space Telescope to 2020

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit; NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope currently is undergoing final integration and test phases that will require more time to ensure a successful mission. After an independent assessment of remaining tasks for the highly complex space observatory, Webb’s previously revised 2019 launch window now is targeted for approximately May 2020.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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Omnibus Spending Bill Includes $20.7 Billion for NASA


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Well, now that spring has arrived, it’s time for Congress to get around to passing the 2018 budget that was due in time for the start of the fiscal year last Oct. 1 — that is to say, nearly two seasons ago.

Yes, we went through all of winter, most of fall and a couple of days of spring before Congress got around to cobbling together a spending bill. On Wednesday, the House released a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that is 2,232 pages long.

They say good things happen to those who wait; in this case, that patience may well pay off for NASA (not that the agency any choice in the matter).

The space agency’s budget would be boosted to $20.7 billion. The budget would be $1.1 billion above the $19.6 billion NASA received in FY 2017 and $1.6 billion above the $19.1 billion the Trump Administration proposed to spend in FY 2018.

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