Webb Status: Out of Replanning and into Implementation

Jason Kalirai, jkalirai@stsci.edu, & Alberto Conti, aconti@stsci.edu


Replanning the Webb project

After major changes in 2011, the Webb project enters 2012 with a new plan. A 2010 independent assessment of the project status, schedule, and budget found several major concerns, and NASA took steps to address each of them. For example, project management at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and NASA headquarters was changed; the Webb project is now a separate program office in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, outside of Astrophysics. This gives the project more visibility and oversight. The new schedule for Webb baselines a 2018 launch date and a total cost to launch of $8B. For the first time in the project’s history, the new budget includes adequate contingency in each year until launch, which should minimize the chance of cost overruns or schedule slips. An additional $835M is budgeted for post-launch costs, which include science operations, flight operations, and general-observer grants to the astronomical community.


Implementing the new Webb plan

In the FY2012 budget, the U.S. Congress authorized $530M for Webb, exactly what is called for in the new plan. As a result, the project has moved forward and met dozens of milestones in late 2011 and early 2012, reaching many ahead of schedule. The Webb project has created a new web page with an online table that summarizes recent accomplishments. The project will update this web site approximately once per month.

In 2012, the Webb project expects to meet several major milestones. The full-field, cryogenic, optical simulator of Webb (OSIM) will complete cryogenic-vacuum certification. OSIM will provide simulated point-source images to test the optical performance of the Webb instruments. Another upcoming, major milestone will be the delivery of the flight instruments to GSFC. Three instruments—the Near Infrared Camera, the Mid-Infrared Instrument, and the Fine Guidance Sensor/Near-InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph—are on schedule for delivery in 2012. The Near-Infrared Spectrograph will follow in 2013. The milestone delivery of the science instruments will signal that the Webb project has begun the integration and testing phase.

The new Webb budget calls for $628M for FY2013. The President’s budget request, released on February 13, 2012, calls for exactly this level of support.