NASA, SpaceX Explore Possibility Of Extending Hubble Space Telescope's Life
NASA and SpaceX are collaborating on a study to explore the possibility of using the Elon Musk led private space company's Dragon spacecraft to reboost the Hubble Space Telescope into a higher, more stable orbit.
Reboosting Hubble into a higher, more stable orbit could potentially add multiple years of operations to the lifespan of the Space Telescope, which has been in operation since 1990.
Hubble is currently orbiting about 335 miles above Earth in an orbit that is slowly decaying over time.
Reboosting the telescope into a higher orbit would allow it to continue its important scientific mission for longer, providing valuable data on a wide range of topics, including the age and expansion rate of the universe, the search for exoplanets, and the study of celestial objects and phenomena.
The study, which is non-exclusive and will involve collecting technical data from both Hubble and the Dragon spacecraft, aims to determine whether it would be feasible to safely rendezvous, dock, and move the telescope into a new orbit.
The study, which is expected to take up to six months, is being conducted under an unfunded Space Act Agreement that was signed on 22 September 2022, between NASA and SpaceX.
On 22 December, NASA issued a Request for Information to seek additional information about commercial capabilities available to reboost a satellite in orbit, using Hubble as a demonstration, at no cost to the government.
The Request for Information will remain open until 24 January 2023, as NASA continues exploring options for Hubble's future.
The agreement allows SpaceX to conduct the study at no cost to the government, in order to better understand the technical challenges associated with servicing missions and explore the commercial possibilities of such a mission.
The study has been proposed by SpaceX in partnership with the Polaris Program, and aims to expand the boundaries of current technology and explore how commercial partnerships can creatively solve complex problems.
While the study is focused on the potential for using the Dragon spacecraft to reboost Hubble, the mission concept may also be applicable to other spacecraft in near-Earth orbit.
NASA plans to safely de-orbit or dispose of Hubble at the end of its operational lifespan.
“This study is an exciting example of the innovative approaches NASA is exploring through private-public partnerships,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.
“As our fleet grows, we want to explore a wide range of opportunities to support the most robust, superlative science missions possible," Zurbuchen added.
“SpaceX and the Polaris Program want to expand the boundaries of current technology and explore how commercial partnerships can creatively solve challenging, complex problems,” said Jessica Jensen, vice president of Customer Operations and Integration at SpaceX.
“Missions such as servicing Hubble would help us expand space capabilities to ultimately help all of us achieve our goals of becoming a space-faring, multiplanetary civilization," Jensen added.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.