Fasteners come loose on Webb Space Telescope

Telescope testing
The James Webb Space Telescope’s spacecraft element undergoes acoustic testing. (NASA Photo / Chris Gunn)

NASA says it’s reviewing its options for repair and corrective action for the multibillion-dollar James Webb Space Telescope after tests shook fastening hardware off the observatory’s sunshield covers.

The issue isn’t expected to force further delays in the Webb Space Telescope’s launch, which was recently postponed to no earlier than May 2020.

Word of the loose hardware surfaced this week when Webb program director Greg Robinson referred to the issue during a presentation to the National Academies’ Space Studies Board, sparking a report in Space News. Robinson was quoted as saying “it’s not terrible news, but it’s not good news, either.”

In today’s follow-up report, NASA said it’s not uncommon for such issues to turn up during pre-launch testing. “This is an example of why space systems are thoroughly and rigorously tested on the ground to uncover imperfections and fix them prior to launch,” Robinson said in the NASA update.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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