More Troubles for JWST

In this episode, more bad news coming out of the James Webb Space Telescope Mission, screws and washers from sun shield cover were found on the floor.

Published on 4th May, 2018

Hello Space Fans and welcome to another edition of Space Fan News. In this episode, more bad news coming out of the James Webb Space Telescope Mission, specifically, Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach California. Apparently stuff is falling off the sun shield and engineers are trying to figure out the cause. I had several stories currently in the queue here at SFN headquarters, but this one came across my desk this morning and I thought I’d file this one first. I’ll post the others early next week. Jeff Foust of Space News is reporting that there is a new problem with the testing of NASA’s next flagship space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope or JWST that has already been plagued with delays and cost overruns for much of the mission life. On the heels of an earlier announcement that JWST was going to be delayed until at least May of 2020 and will almost certainly run over it’s 8 billion dollar budget, yesterday on May 3, Greg Robinson, the JWST program director at NASA Headquarters, reported that some “screws and washers” appear to have come off the spacecraft during recent environmental testing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California. Technicians found the items after the spacecraft element of JWST, which includes the bus and sunshield but not the optics and instruments, was moved last weekend from one chamber for acoustics tests to another to prepare for vibration testing. Robinson reports that they believe the screws and washers came off of the sun shield cover and he said the problem was only a couple of days old so there wasn’t much more to tell. OK, I know, this really sucks and it’s only adding to all of our apprehension about the successful deployment of this amazing telescope. Let’s all try to just remember that this will be the largest space telescope that has ever been put into space and while the design is complicated and about a zillion things need to go right in the proper order for this thing to start doing its job, they are testing the living crap out of this thing before it ever gets folded up and put into the rocket that will launch it to the L2 point. Every nut, bolt, hinge, strut, and mount is being tested and tested again. Sadly, some of that stuff fell off during testing, but they’re gonna find out why, put the screws and washers back in and test some more. With each failure like this, we get closer to a working telescope that will perform flawlessly. Yeah. Flawlessly. Anyway, NASA has commissioned an independent review led by retired aerospace executive and former NASA Goddard director Tom Young, and that is scheduled to be completed at the end of this month. Once that’s complete, NASA will have a good understanding whether they can meet the May 2020 timeline along with how much more things are gonna cost. They’ve already learned from this experience that NASA has to do more oversight of Northrop Grumman, the company charged with building JWST, and I gotta say, I’m glad for it. Remember, it was Northrop Grumman’s adapter failure on a recent spy satellite launch done by SpaceX that cost the entire mission. I’m not totally thrilled with that company at the moment, but I still remain confident that NASA will get JWST off the ground and that it will work and provide us with views and data about the universe that will reshape how we look at our place in the heavens. Well that’s it for this episode Space Fans, quick announcement: if you create an account at you can get notifications of any new content that we upload to YouTube and it’s way better than YouTube’s notification system, so please register and try it out. We will never use your email address for anything else than Deep Astronomy business. Thanks to all Patreon Patrons and thank you for watching and as always Keep Looking Up!