The Hubble Space Telescope has been operating in Earth orbit since 1990, providing some of the best images and data about space ever captured. It is now the target of an experiment to extend the life of artificial satellites.
NASA, the leading US space agency, and SpaceX, a space launch provider, have announced a new partnership to study the feasibility of taking the Hubble Space Telescope into higher orbit using SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Hubble has already been visited by spacecraft five times for repairs and maintenance, but each previous mission was carried out by astronauts on the space shuttle, which is no longer available.
Plans are still in the early stages, and at this point it’s more of a blueprint for other servicing missions than a firm plan specifically for Hubble. NASA said in a blog post: “SpaceX, in partnership with the Polaris Program, proposed this study to better understand the technical challenges associated with servicing missions. This study is not exclusive, and other companies may propose similar studies using different model rockets or spacecraft.”
NASA’s hope is to use a Dragon spacecraft to push the Hubble Space Telescope from its current altitude of 535 km to 600 km, restoring its original 1990 altitude. Like many Earth-orbiting satellites, the telescope is gradually losing altitude , which is expected to increase. speed up as you get closer. A servicing mission could add more years to Hubble’s life, but whether or not it happens, NASA plans to “safely deorbit or dispose of Hubble” when it can no longer be used.
The new James Webb Space Telescope is much more powerful than Hubble and has already provided us with some incredible images and data about the universe. Still, two space telescopes are better than one: NASA recently pointed both telescopes at the same place for the first timeto observe the impact of DART on Dimorphos.
Source: NASA, Ars Technica