On Thursday, NASA stated that it would look into the feasibility of utilising SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ship to raise the orbit of the ageing Hubble Space Telescope. The government agency and SpaceX have entered into a “Space Act Agreement” to explore the viability of Dragon docking with the 32-year-old observatory and lifting it into a higher orbit. The assessment will take six months. There is no patent on the study’s findings, so competitors may submit competing ideas using their own rockets and spacecraft.
Hubble has been a very useful instrument for astronomy. More than 1.5 million observations have been made throughout the course of its lifespan, leading to the publishing of almost 19,000 academic publications.
An unfunded Space Act Agreement to conduct a study of a commercial mission to boost Hubble’s orbit and extend its operations was signed by @NASA and @SpaceX – a mission concept that may be applied to other spacecraft and commercial vehicles: https://t.co/b0Sv64okuI pic.twitter.com/ROiwMAj0l7
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) September 29, 2022
The latest Hubble analysis should provide light on such issues as the feasibility and expense of such a trip. The primary objective is to raise Hubble from its present height of 535 km to 600 km, the same altitude it was at when it was initially launched in 1990. If the Reboost to 600 initiative is successful, the Hubble Space Telescope’s useful life might be prolonged by 20-30 years.
Hubble has been steadily dropping altitude since the fifth and last servicing mission in 2009, and this process is likely to intensify as the telescope falls lower.
During a teleconference with media, Patrick Crouse, the telescope’s project manager, warned that if NASA doesn’t send a re-boost mission to the telescope by the end of the 2020s, it may have to send a propulsion module to the observatory. With this, we can guarantee that Hubble will have a safe and successful reentry into Earth’s atmosphere and splash down in the Pacific.