NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic, Looks Ahead in 2020, 2021

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With 2020 more than half way through, NASA is gearing up for a busy rest of the year and 2021.

Following the recent successful launch of a Mars rover and safely bringing home astronauts from low-Earth orbit aboard a new commercial spacecraft, NASA is looking forward to more exploration firsts now through 2021.

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Completes Comprehensive Systems Test

Shown with its primary mirror fully deployed, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the largest and most technically complex space science telescope NASA has ever built. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

By Thaddeus Cesari
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — Now that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has been assembled into its final form, testing teams seized the unique opportunity to perform a critical software and electrical analysis on the entire observatory as a single, fully connected vehicle.

Known as a Comprehensive Systems Test or CST, this was the first full systems evaluation that has ever been run on the assembled  observatory, and one of the final first-time activities the team will perform.

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GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

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First Look: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Fully Stowed

A first look at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully stowed into the same configuration it will have when loaded into an Ariane V rocket for launch. The image was taken from a webcam in the clean room at Northrop Grumman, in Redondo Beach, California. With staffing restrictions in place due to COVID-19, only essential staff are allowed in the clean room. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

by Thaddeus Cesari
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has been successfully folded and stowed into the same configuration it will have when loaded onto an Ariane 5 rocket for launch next year.

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WFIRST Continues to Make Progress Despite Cancellation Attempts

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) continues to making steady progress toward an October 2026 launch despite the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to cancel it, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Webb Space Telescope Unlikely to Meet Launch Schedule

Deployment tests like these help safeguard mission success by physically demonstrating that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is able to move and unfold as intended. (Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In the latest not shocking, totally expected news out of Washington, NASA’s troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has a very low chance of meeting its March 2021 launch date.

Exactly how low? Twelve percent.

That means the chance of JWST not making the launch date is….well, you do the math.

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Full Mirror Deployment a Success

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (NASA PR) — In a recent test, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully deployed its primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space.

As Webb progresses towards liftoff in 2021, technicians and engineers have been diligently checking off a long list of final tests the observatory will undergo before being packaged for delivery to French Guiana for launch.

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NASA Leadership Assessing Mission Impacts of Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2020 (NASA PR) — To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.

“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.” 

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GAO: More Webb Space Telescope Delays Look Likely

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has taken yet another look at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, and the results aren’t real good.

“As of October 2019, the project had used about 76 percent of its available schedule reserve and no longer plans to launch in November 2020,” the report stated. “The project is now managing to a March 2021 launch date but estimates only a 12 percent likelihood that this date will be achieved. NASA plans to reassess the launch date in the spring of 2020. “

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