Last week the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Independent Comprehensive Review Panel released its final report on significant cost overruns and mismanagement by NASA over the course of its development. The cost overruns have not and will not affect Canada’s contributions according to the Canadian Space Agency.
Canada is not contributing funds directly to the Webb Telescope. Instead Canada is contributing two significant instruments to the JWST, the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and Tuneable Filter Imager (TFI). These instruments have been developed under contract to the Canadian Space Agency by COM DEV Canada at their manufacturing facility in Ottawa.
According to Canadian Space Agency “The cost of Canada’s contribution to the Webb (telescope) is $144.8 million over the entire course of the telescope’s lifetime including operations after launch.”
In return for Canada’s contribution of these instruments Canadian astronomers will have guaranteed access to 5% of the observing time on the telescope.
(The COM DEV FGS/TFI development team.)
While NASA underestimated the cost of developing the Webb Telescope it is because in part they were developing cutting edge technologies which no one had developed before. The telescope is the most powerful telescope ever developed by NASA and is to replace the Hubble Telescope. The Webb Telescope is 100 more times more powerful than the Hubble telescope which has already rewritten the textbooks with its significant finds.
The report noted that the earliest the Webb Telescope could now launch is September of 2015 and only if the American congress added another $400-500 million to the NASA budget over the next two years. The Webb Telescope was to have launched in 2013. However after the recent mid-term elections in the U.S. the mood towards NASA and other agencies is not to increase their budgets but to find ways to cut them. It is unknown at this time if the Webb Telescope will get enough funding to launch by 2015.
Diagram of the FGS/TFI in the Webb Telescope.