NASA has again delayed the launch of its James Webb Space Telescope, this time because of how coronavirus has impacted work crews, Space.com reported. The telescope was scheduled for launch in March 2021 after a number of delays. However, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a Thursday meeting of the Space Studies Board of the National Academies that COVID-19 has caused work to fall behind schedule.
“We will not launch in March,” Zurbuchen said. “Absolutely we will not launch in March. That is not in the cards right now. That’s not because they did anything wrong. It’s not anyone’s fault or mismanagement.” A March 2021 launch date already seemed ambitious pre-COVID-19 — a January report from the Government Accountability Office said that date may not be feasible “based on a detailed assessment of risks, costs, and schedule.” After the pandemic struck, Space News reported NASA and contractor Northrup Grumman cut crews’ work from 12, 10-hour shifts per week to five, eight-hour shifts per week.