NASA may collaborate with SpaceX to revisit the Hubble Space Telescope

Placed in high orbit about 559 km above Earth, the Hubble Space Telescope was last visited by NASA in 2009 on a mission using the since retired Space Shuttle Atlantis. As a result, there is currently no spacecraft in service capable of travelling the distance to the famous telescope, which is now in urgent need of maintenance.

But according to a NASA announcement, the US space agency is evaluating with Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, the feasibility of a possible mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The study, which will take about six months, also involves the Polaris Program, another private manned spaceflight initiative backed by billionaire Jason Isaacman. Earlier this year, Isaacman bought three flights on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, a series of missions he calls Polaris.

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It’s not yet clear whether an eventual mission to Hubble would require a full crew of astronauts, modeled after the Space Shuttle missions, with the new Dragon capsules capable of autonomous flight. In addition, it is unclear whether it is even possible for a SpaceX spacecraft to visit the telescope safely. So a possible compromise solution would be to use a robotic, ground-controlled arm system to access the telescope and replace faulty or obsolete equipment.

According to a press release, NASA and SpaceX will specifically explore “the feasibility of a SpaceX and Polaris program idea to propel the Hubble Space Telescope to a higher orbit using the Dragon spacecraft at no cost to the government.”

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According to NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope is in good enough condition to remain operational at least through the end of this decade. However, an eventual mission is more than justified, if only from the perspective of upgrading to the latest imaging technologies developed in the last decade, making the Hubble Telescope more competitive with “rival” James Web.

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