NASA and SpaceX will explore the possibility of raising the orbit of the Hubble telescope

NASA and SpaceX have announced the signing of an agreement. Its purpose is to study the possibility of raising the orbit of the Hubble telescope using the Crew Dragon spacecraft. 

Hubble Telescope Orbit

Currently, the Hubble telescope is in a 540-kilometer near-Earth orbit. Its height gradually decreases under the influence of the upper layers of the earth’s atmosphere. Since the telescope does not have its own engines, raising its orbit is possible only with the use of “third-party” spacecraft. Previously, shuttles were used for this. The last time a cruise spacecraft lifted the Hubble orbit was in 2009 (this happened as part of the final telescope maintenance mission). Since then, its height has been gradually decreasing. 

Hubble telescope repair mission. Source: NASA

At the same time, it is worth recalling that now the Sun is entering a new cycle of activity. This process will be accompanied by the inevitable “inflating” of the earth’s atmosphere, which will accelerate the departure from orbit of all spacecraft — especially those that, like Hubble, do not have engines.

Since Hubble still has the ability to conduct scientific observations, its premature departure from orbit will be a significant loss for astronomers. Therefore, NASA has begun to work out a potential plan to save the telescope. Its key component may be the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Polaris Program

According to a message published on the NASA website, the organization will study the possibility of raising the telescope’s orbit during one of the missions under the Polaris program. It is funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman. According to him, at least three manned flights will be carried out within the framework of Polaris. The goal of the first mission will be to go into outer space and break the Gemini 11 orbit altitude record. The programs of the remaining flights have not yet been approved.

Crew Dragon spacecraft approaching the ISS. Source: NASA

According to NASA representatives, the fact of signing the agreement does not mean that the organization gave the go-ahead for the mission. And moreover, we are not talking about a flight for the purpose of telescope maintenance. But since we are talking about a private initiative implemented at the organizer’s own expense, the aerospace administration is quite understandably interested in such a proposal.

If approved, the Hubble orbit elevation mission will be an important milestone in the history of private astronautics. It cannot be ruled out that with its success, NASA will agree to consider the project of a private expedition for the purpose of full-fledged maintenance of the telescope.

According to

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