JWST suffers new problem during spacecraft testing

WASHINGTON — As an unbiased assessment of NASA’s James Webb Area Telescope continues, the undertaking is coping with a brand new drawback found in current testing of the spacecraft.

In a presentation at a gathering of the Nationwide Academies’ Area Research Board right here Could 3, Greg Robinson, the JWST program director at NASA Headquarters, mentioned some “screws and washers” seem to have come off the spacecraft throughout current environmental testing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California.

Technicians discovered the objects after the spacecraft component of JWST, which incorporates the bus and sunshield however not its optics and devices, was moved final weekend from one chamber for acoustics checks to a different to organize for vibration testing.

“Proper now we imagine that each one of this {hardware} — we’re speaking screws and washers right here — come from the sunshield cowl,” he mentioned. “We’re what this actually means and what’s the restoration plan.” The issue, he mentioned, was solely a few days previous, and he had few extra particulars about the issue.

“It’s not horrible information, nevertheless it’s not excellent news, both,” he mentioned.

The incident, Robinson argued, confirmed the significance of the wide selection of checks the spacecraft is put via previous to launch. “That’s why we do the testing,” he mentioned. “We do it now, we discover it now, we repair it and we launch an excellent spacecraft.”

This newest incident comes as an unbiased assessment board, chartered by NASA in late March after saying a one-year delay in JWST’s launch due to different technical points, is within the midst of its evaluation of the mission and its launch readiness. That assessment, led by retired aerospace government and former NASA Goddard director Tom Younger, is scheduled to be accomplished on the finish of the month.

“It was a no brainer to place an unbiased assessment board in place,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA affiliate administrator for science, mentioned on the Area Research Board assembly Could 2. The board, he mentioned, will present an unbiased take a look at the standing of the mission and determine what must be performed to make sure the mission will likely be profitable.

Zurbuchen mentioned there can be a “little little bit of a pause” after the board delivers its ultimate report, partially due to a previous dedication by Younger in early June that makes him unavailable for discussions in regards to the report or extra work. He mentioned NASA will begin briefing Congress and others in regards to the report, and the company’s response, in late June.

That report will enable NASA to refine a launch date of roughly Could 2020 that it introduced March 27. Robinson believed there was margin within the revised growth schedule to take care of that date. “We imagine now we have good margin there, and rather a lot that margin is for issues like we simply skilled,” he mentioned. “I nonetheless imagine we’ll go in 2020, in roughly the identical timeframe that we talked about, except this drawback takes longer than we count on.”

One lesson already discovered, he mentioned, was the necessity for extra NASA oversight of Northrop Grumman’s work. “We had individuals within the plant for a very long time, 4 or 5 individuals,” he mentioned. “We’ve added plenty of of us up to now 5 – 6 months for oversight at Northrop Grumman.”

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