NASA, SpaceX study Hubble telescope re-boost mission

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Image Source: Daily Express

Hubble telescope is being investigated by NASA and the SpaceX rocket firm to confirm the viability of running a commercial astronaut mission.

One of the most outstanding scientific instruments ever created, the orbiting observatory, is steadily losing height.

If nothing is done to re-boost the telescope, it will eventually burn up when it falls into the atmosphere.

NASA’s space shuttle carried out maintenance on the Hubble telescope five times, the last time being in 2009.

The telescope has since descended by around 25 km and is currently circling the Earth at the height of 540 km.

Nasa’s ideal goal is to raise the observatory back to its original 600 km altitude, where it was when it was launched in 1990.

This might extend its lifespan by 20 to 30 years, though longevity would also greatly depend on the telescope’s systems and, particularly, its four instruments, which continue to function well.

Hubble has been a very successful astronomical instrument. It has made more than 1.5 million observations over its existence thus far, which have led to the publication of about 19,000 academic research papers.

This year, it has seen the Universe’s furthest star, captured images of the largest comet ever discovered, and helped capture footage of the Dart probe’s collision with an asteroid this past week.

The James Webb telescope, its replacement, was launched by NASA at the end of the previous year, but it was hoped that the two could continue to cooperate for a long time.

The research will look at the possibility of Elon Musk’s business sending a commercial crew to Hubble in one of its Dragon capsules to raise the observatory higher in the sky and maintain some of its equipment.

The gyroscopes that are used to direct the telescope at stars and galaxies may need to be replaced as part of repair and upgrading work because they have a propensity to break down over time.

At the moment, SpaceX transports humans to and from the International Space Station using its Dragon spacecraft. Hubble, however, would be a different scenario, according to Jessica Jensen from SpaceX.

The “capture ring” that was connected to Hubble by the final shuttle mission in 2009 is one thing that would aid Dragon.

A future robotic vessel was designed to use this mechanism to grab the 12-ton telescope and take it out of the sky for safe disposal in the South Pacific Ocean.

Now, a Dragon capsule may alternatively utilize the same ring to lock on Hubble and propel it higher.

What the Hubble telescope needs to work

Patrick Crouse, the project manager for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, said that the team wouldn’t have anticipated that (a Dragon trip) would be as complex as the servicing flights that were completed in the past with the shuttle and NASA human crews. However, there is an eagerness to see what possibilities exist with NASA’s other business partners.

Entrepreneur and millionaire Jared Isaacman, who led the all-civilian “Inspiration4” journey to orbit in a Dragon spacecraft last year, will support the study. In addition, he is advancing commercial space technologies with an initiative named Polaris.

With the James Webb telescope fully operational, the significance of Hubble’s mission has increased. Isaacman concluded that it is incredibly fascinating to consider the idea of prolonging the life and capabilities of one of the world’s greatest explorers.