After years, NASA and SpaceX are planning to upgrade the Hubble telescope

After years, astronauts may be able to visit and service the Hubble Space Telescope again, this time by a private SpaceX spacecraft. After years, NASA and SpaceX are planning to upgrade the Hubble telescope

After years, astronauts may be able to visit and service the Hubble Space Telescope again, this time by a private SpaceX spacecraft.

"Hubble Space Telescope" (Hubble Space Telescope) was launched into the earth's orbit in April 1990 and during the two decades after that, it had five groups of visitors. These astronauts, who arrived at Hubble by NASA's space shuttle missions, continuously maintained and upgraded it so that it could continue to observe the sky with amazing clarity. It retired in 2011, but a new era of Hubble servicing missions may be on the horizon. The American space agency announced a few hours ago that it is conducting a joint study with "SpaceX" to investigate sending the Dragon capsule to Hubble and improving the orbit of this observatory and perhaps upgrading it in other ways.

" Jessica Jensen, Vice President of Customer Operations and Integration of SpaceX said in this connection: "We want to help Hubble, and if this help is in addition to upgrading its orbit to provide services and can be done in a manned space mission, even better." Is. So all options are on the table."

It should be noted that currently SpaceX is not responsible for any mission to Hubble, and the new statement is only related to a feasibility study, which is expected to take six months and cost It is not funded by NASA, but the space agency participates in this collaboration through an unfunded Space Act agreement.

Jensen noted about this collaboration: "We are looking at Dragon's capabilities and how to modify it for safe docking and We will connect to Hubble. The details of how physically this should be done and what safe route we should take to get to Hubble and all the other things need to be worked out. It will not require the presence of astronauts. A feasibility study may lead mission planners to an unmanned mission with Dragon or perhaps even another vehicle.

Hubble is now in good health and continues to provide us with amazing and informative pictures of the cosmos. . For example, in the past few days, shortly after NASA's Dart probe deliberately hit the asteroid moon Dimorphos, which orbits the larger asteroid Didymus, it photographed this complex. Last year, due to the earth's atmospheric tension, it has decreased slightly. Hubble is currently orbiting the Earth at an altitude of about 540 km, which is approximately 60 km lower than its initial orbit. "At Hubble's current altitude, there is a 50 percent chance it will fall to Earth in 2037," the field said.

However, NASA plans to prevent that from happening. The US space agency plans to take Hubble out of orbit in a controlled manner after its observation days are over. This requires launching a robotic mission to the telescope to bring it down safely. According to Cruz, it will probably be done by the end of the 2020s.

But this is without increasing the orbit. Returning Hubble to its original altitude of 600 km would potentially allow the observatory to continue operating for many more years. "If you can get that high, you're easily adding 15 to 20 years to the mission," Cruz said, pointing out that if the feasibility shows promising results, the Dragon mission to Hubble could It will happen very soon. In fact, there is now a spacecraft architecture that can make such a flight.

The Polaris program, which is a collection of three SpaceX missions and is led by billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. ) is organized. He went to space last year with "Inspiration 4", the first all-citizen space mission in history.

Polaris consists of three missions, the first of which is Isaac Man's "Polaris Dawn". and sends three other crews into space. In this mission, the first private spacewalk will take place, and the Dragon spacecraft will go farther to the moon than any other manned mission since the Apollo missions. 2 to use the Dragon capsule and Polaris 3 to use the Starship spacecraft, which is currently under development to send humans to the moon and Mars. , a trip to Hubble definitely fits these conditions. In this context, he emphasized: "The idea of upgrading and servicing Hubble, if the feasibility studies support it, as a second mission. Polaris would make sense.

Cover photo: SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft and the Hubble telescope
Credit: NASA/SpaceX

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