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NASA announces James Webb Space Telescope Independent Review Board members

The combined Optical Telescope element and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is lifted out of the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS) container. Webb’s Spacecraft Element (SCE) that includes the sunshield and spacecraft bus are pictured on the far left. Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

The combined Optical Telescope element and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is lifted out of the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS) container. Webb’s Spacecraft Element (SCE) that includes the sunshield and spacecraft bus are pictured on the far left. Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

NASA recently announced the formation of an external Independent Review Board for the space agency’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The board will study a variety of factors impacting the mission’s success and reinforce NASA’s strategy for completing the observatory’s final integration and testing phase, launch phase and commissioning.

“We are exploring every aspect of Webb’s final testing and integration to ensure a successful mission, delivering on its scientific promise,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a NASA news release. “This board’s input will provide a higher level of confidence in the estimated time needed to successfully complete the highly complex tasks ahead before NASA defines a specific launch time frame.”

According to NASA, the board includes individuals with expertise and experience in program management, schedule and cost management, systems engineering and the integration and testing of large and complex space systems, science instrumentation, unique flight hardware and missions with science objectives similar to Webb.

The Independent Review Board is expected to take about eight weeks to complete the review process. Once completed, it will deliver a presentation and a report outlining its findings and recommendations.

NASA will then review the findings of both the Independent Review Board and the recent findings of Webb’s Standing Review Board before sending a report to Congress at the end of June. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, the primary JWST contractor, will proceed with final testing and systems integrations prior to launch.

According to NASA, the members of the Independent Review Board are:

  • Mr. Thomas Young, NASA/Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland – Retired (Chair)
  • Dr. William Ballhaus, Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California- Retired
  • Mr. Steve Battel, Battel Engineering, Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Mr. Orlando Figueroa, NASA Headquarters and Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland – Retired
  • Dr. Fiona Harrison, Caltech University in Pasadena, California
  • Ms. Michele King, NASA Office of Chief Financial Officer/Strategic Investments Division in Washington, DC
  • Mr. Paul McConnaughey, NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center/Webb Standing Review Board (Chair) in Huntsville, Alabama
  • Ms. Dorothy Perkins, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland – Retired
  • Mr. Pete Theisinger, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
  • Dr. Maria Zuber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts

The JWST is the scientific successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and is the most powerful space telescope ever built. It will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in South America.

In March, NASA announced a delay of at least a six months from late 2019 to sometime in 2020 for the launch of the Webb telescope, citing the need for extensive testing and integration of its parts. The postponement could also increase the cost of the telescope beyond the congressionally mandated $8 billion cap. Should that happen, the project will need to get re-authorization by Congress, according to NASA.

Video courtesy of Northrop Grumman

 

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Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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