Hubble Is Slowly Falling and SpaceX Wants to Give It a Boost
The Hubble Space Telescope is falling, but amid always-tight NASA budgets, SpaceX is volunteering to help see if it’s possible to give it a push back into space.
Hubble has been in orbit around the Earth for a very long time, and it experiences a constant slow-motion re-entry of the atmosphere. It has already been pushed back up in orbit once before.
Sure we have the shiny new James Webb Space Telescope to enjoy, but Hubble has been dazzling Earthlings for decades, and can still contribute valuable science while its new big brother is busy.
NASA is firm that any efforts to “reboost” Hubble back up to its orbit of 600 kilometers (370 miles) above the Earth will not be deducted from its existing budgetary commitments, and that the study co-conducted with Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX is looking only at commercial possibilities.
“It’s wholly appropriate for us to look at this because of the tremendous value this research asset has for us, as well as others,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, at a press conference last week.
Teams expect the study to take up to six months, collecting technical data from both Hubble and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. This data will help determine whether it would be possible to safely rendezvous, dock, and move the telescope into a more stable orbit.
After NASA shut down the space shuttle program, all missions into craft orbiting around the Earth required hitching a ride with the Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft from the Russian Federation.
Now the SpaceX Dragon Crew spacecraft has entered into service with the agency for crewed missions to the ISS, and the possibility that a flight to dock with Hubble in order to boost it back into orbit, as well as bring along engineers to service Hubble’s systems, is what is currently being discussed.
“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,” said Jessica Jensen, vice president of Customer Operations & Integration at SpaceX.