NASA and the US aerospace company SpaceX want to examine whether the Hubble space telescope can be brought into a higher orbit and thus extend its service life by up to 20 years. This was announced by the US space agency on Thursday in a press conference scheduled at short notice. It is planned that the mission to the space telescope will be carried out with a Crew Dragon space capsule as part of the so-called Polaris program of US billionaire Jared Isaacman. SpaceX suggested the study, now it should be analyzed for about half a year whether this plan is feasible. So far, no expenditure has been planned for this.
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The Monkeyhead Nebula in Orion
Jared Isaacman: A billionaire with big goals
The 39-year-old Isaacman flew into space with a SpaceX Crew Dragon in September 2021, and he had paid for the mission called Inspiration4. Apparently he got a taste for it, because in February he announced that he wanted to carry out three more manned space flights with SpaceX in order to “fast-track” space travel. That’s why he created the Polaris program. The first mission “Polaris Dawn” is scheduled for March 2023. The goal is the highest orbit ever achieved by a manned mission and the first spacewalk on a commercial space flight. The second or third Polaris mission could then go to Hubble.
So far there are no plans to carry out or even finance a maintenance mission to the space telescope, NASA assures. First of all, they want to find out what possibilities commercial space travel offers for this. Only when the test is complete can it be determined whether it is even possible to fly safely to the instrument, dock there and bring it into a more stable orbit. “Missions like the Hubble servicing would help us expand our capabilities in space and ultimately help us all achieve the goal of becoming a multiplanetary civilization,” said SpaceX’s Jessica Jensen.
Hubble telescope launched in 1990
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 on the Space Shuttle Discovery. Right from the start it became clear that the 2.4 meter main mirror was so flawed that it did not allow much better image quality than ground-based telescopes. A repair operation with the space shuttle Endeavor followed in 1993, and four more maintenance missions were added by 2009. Since the end of the Space Shuttle program, NASA has had no means of servicing the instrument or even raising orbit. The space telescope is slowly sinking and would have to be crashed at some point. Another maintenance mission could extend the service life significantly.
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