NASA is waiting for US State Department approval to launch their James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope – on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2013.
The $4.5 billion project has already over-run by one billion dollars, at a time where NASA is looking to cut costs to help facilitate their Vision for Space Exploration (VSE).
The US State Department is still to approval an agreement between NASA and the European Space Agency, which is due to be signed next year. The JWST project has already been delayed by two years due to increased costs.
NASA is aiming to re-service Hubble on a Shuttle mission in 2007/08 – extended the life of the telescope into the next decade.
In other news Sun Laiyan, Administrator of the China National Space Administration, and ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain signed an Intergovernmental Framework Agreement for space cooperation for peaceful purposes.
The signing ceremony took place in the Diao Yu Tai Guest House, Beijing, in the presence of the Chinese State Councillor, Mrs Chen Lizhi, and representatives of the diplomatic community.
This is the first Framework Agreement that China has signed with ESA and it will facilitate cooperation between ESA and China in a number of areas including space science, Earth observation, telecommunications, navigation and microgravity research.
Also, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is half way to Mars, after successfully firing its six engines for 20 seconds last week in anticipation of a March arrival.
The spacecraft will look for evidence of water, scan the surface for landing sites for future robotic explorers and serve as a communications link to relay data to Earth.