NASA is taking a closer look at the possibility of using private spacecraft to lift the Hubble Space Telescope to the next level, giving the influential space observatory a new lease.
On December 22, the space agency issued a request for information regarding SpaceX’s non-exclusive research earlier this year, suggesting how the Hubble Space Telescope could be “enhanced.” to a higher orbit.
NASA’s request for information, which you can read here, comes as the agency continues to review the future of the space telescope and will remain open until January 24, 2023. Since Hubble began operating in 1990, the orbit of the space telescope 540 km from Earth has gradually deteriorated. Pushing it to a higher and more stable orbit could add years to Hubble’s life, delaying the time when NASA needs to debit or scrap the telescope.
During the five space shuttle missions to the Hubble service, NASA used the shuttle to re-enforce the telescope. The last space shuttle service mission to Hubble was in 2009. NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011. The idea of raising Hubble to higher orbits with the Dragon spacecraft at no cost to the government was first developed between SpaceX and the Polaris Program, a private space mission program using Dragon vehicles and Starship is sponsored by billionaire Jared Isaacman. The unfunded agreement between SpaceX and NASA to study the feasibility of re-enhancing Hubble was then signed in September 2022.
The fact that this research is non-exclusive means that other companies are free to come up with their own Hubble interview studies based on the use of different rockets or spacecraft. These studies will collect data from Hubble itself and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to assess the possibility of a safe encounter and docking with the space telescope before sending it to a more stable orbit. Studies should last about 6 months.
The SpaceX study is designed to help NASA, which does not currently plan to operate or fund a new Hubble service mission, determine the commercial viability of such a mission. The SpaceX study also aims to expose the technical challenges of such maintenance work.
“This study is an exciting example of the innovative approaches NASA is exploring through public-private partnerships,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, deputy administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at the Science Mission Directorate. NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. “As our fleet grows, we want to explore as many opportunities to support the most powerful and exceptional science missions as possible.”
“SpaceX and the Polaris program want to push the boundaries of current technology and explore how business partnerships can address this,” said Jessica Jensen, executive vice president and customer integration at SpaceX. creatively difficult complex problems”. “Missions like the Hubble Service will help us expand our space capabilities to ultimately help us all achieve our goal of becoming a multi-planetary space civilization.”
- NASA is seeking suggestions on how to use commercial spacecraft to raise the orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope.
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