The James Webb Space Telescope will launch from French Guiana today.
Jointly developed by NASA and the European and Canadian Space Agencies, and built by Northrop Grumman, the telescope will succeed the 30-year-old Hubble Space Telescope. Webb’s 4 infrared detectors and 270 square foot mirror allows the telescope to observe more distant astronomical objects and see though nebulas that block visible light.
The telescope has suffered delays and budget overruns with total costs rising from $1 billion to $9.66 billion and its launch delayed from 2007 to 2021. Northrop Grumman lost several American military contracts to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance last year and the company’s OmegA rocket was cancelled by the US Space Force. The company’s medium and small-lift rockets also face competition from SpaceX and Blue Origin.
Expect Webb’s successful launch to increase Northrop Grumman’s chance of winning upcoming space and military contracts. Expect Northrop Grumman to be favored to build Webb’s replacement when the telescope’s 10-year mission ends. There will likely be an increase in competitive lobbying and lawsuits between Northrop Grumman and newer aerospace companies over government contracts as the US and Europe prepare for moon and Mars missions later in the 2020s.
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Kyle is a Publisher and Analyst on the Analysis team. He specializes in foreign policy and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a particular focus on Mexico and Central America.