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.
“In addition, the observatory contractor has consumed several weeks of schedule reserves due to various workmanship errors, particularly with respect to the spacecraft propulsion systems,” the report added. “For example, an observatory contractor technician applied too much voltage and damaged components of the propulsion system, and reattaching the replacement components consumed 5 weeks of reserves.”
GAO found that valves in the spacecraft’s thruster modules had been damaged by a cleaning solution. Reattachment of the refurbished modules was “delayed by one month when a technician applied too much voltage to one of the components in a recently refurbished thruster module.”