Washington: After a series of delays and billions spent over budget, the potent James Webb Space Telescope is on track to launch in 2018 at a total project cost of USD 8.8 billion, NASA has vowed.
The project, which aims to build the world`s most powerful telescope, 100 times more sensitive than the Hubble space telescope, has been riddled by poor management and cost overruns.
Though a Congressional subcommittee threatened to ax the project altogether earlier this year as lawmakers grappled with how to reduce a more than USD 15 trillion national deficit, Congress has since agreed to fully fund it at the level NASA requested.
But NASA`s new JWST program manager Rick Howard who came on board last year, still faced an acrimonious grilling on Tuesday from lawmakers in the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Committee chair Ralph Hall described the project as "another case study of NASA mismanagement" and said the NASA reshuffle was "the agency`s last opportunity to hold this program together."
"We have changed the management, the priority and the approach," Howard told the committee hearing. "We can deliver JWST within costs."
In February, NASA inspector general Paul Martin told lawmakers that the telescope had gone way over its initial budget of USD 3.5 billion and was likely to come in at around USD 6.5 billion.
NASA has also pushed back its scheduled launch -- initially set for 2013 -- numerous times. It is now set for October 2018.