The ambitious James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has a new launch date: March 2021. It had been planned for lift off in October this year, but has suffered numerous delays since the project began in 1996.
Back then, its budget was forecast at $500m and the launch date was set for 2007. But the technical requirements for the mission were so challenging that delays started to mount and costs started to spiral.
In 2011, the mission was almost cancelled by US Congress, but it relented and capped the mission cost at around $8bn. The latest delay, which has been caused by anomalous test results that need investigating, will bring the total budget to around $9.6bn (£7.8bn).
Where this additional money will come from is being debated at the moment. Testifying before the House Science Committee in Washington this week, Nasa’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, suggested that the agency could slow down the development of another space telescope, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and divert funds to JWST.
The European Space Agency are partners in JWST, and will launch the space telescope from Kourou, in French Guiana, in South America. They will also supply two instruments to the missions.