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NASA and SpaceX Want to Boost Reboost Hubble Telescope's Orbit, Here's How

The last time American astronauts departed a service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope almost 14 years ago, there was an assumption that it would be the last time gloved human hands would ever touch the fabled space telescope. The demise of the Space Shuttle program two years later would see to that.
Hubble Space Telescope 12 photos
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But the degree to which conditions can change in that time is profound, all with a heavy dose of private industry. As of late September 222nd, 2022, NASA and Elon Musk's SpaceX have signed a Space Act Agreement to begin researching a possible new mission strategy. One involves SpaceX Falcon rockets and Dragon space capsules to rendezvous with Hubble in Low Earth Orbit, approximately 335 miles (539 km) above the Earth's surface.

From there, the SpaceX Dragon crew could potentially perform a wide array of maintenance and upkeep of the three-decade-old space telescope. Everything from primary mirror recalibration to flight software de-bugging to keep the visible light-spectrum telescope's images as crisp and detailed as possible. Though, the mind-warping clarity of the infrared James Webb Space Telescope, which started operation this year, may detract from Hubble's future exploits.

Even so, visible light observation of the observable universe is still a priority for NASA scientists. The prospects of two ultra-powerful telescopes covering two completely different points on the light spectrum are no doubt pleasing for this reason. That's why this admittedly yet unfunded design study compensates in truckloads of potential.

This study is an exciting example of the innovative approaches NASA is exploring through private-public partnerships," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "As our fleet grows, we want to explore a wide range of opportunities to support the most robust, superlative science missions possible." How long the telescope could be kept operative is still somewhat of an unknown. What's more known is that whenever that day arrives, NASA plans to de-orbit HST and let the flames of re-entry take care of the cleanup.

 
 
 
 
 

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