Last week, NASA and SpaceX approved an unfunded study to investigate the feasibility of boosting Hubble Space Telescope, Which is in danger of falling out of orbit in the next decade, into a higher orbit.
SpaceX is getting closer to NASA Earlier this year about the possibility of using one of its Dragon spacecraft to move the telescope to a higher altitude, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said at a press conference Thursday.
The Hubble telescope was put into orbit in 1990, and the last time astronauts performed maintenance and repair was in 2009 at an altitude of 350 miles. In the past 13 years, it’s fallen about 20 miles, according to the New York Times.
Although he signed a space law agreement with SpaceX for a six-month project on September 22, Zurbuchen added, “I want to be absolutely clear, we’re not announcing today that we will definitely move forward with a plan like this.”
Any attempt to reposition the telescope will be privately funded at no cost to the government, NASA saidadding that the study was not exclusive and would welcome offers from other space companies.
NASA said moving the telescope to a higher orbit could give Hubble more years of operation.
“What we want to do is push the boundaries of existing technology,” said Jessica Jensen of SpaceX, Vice President of Customer Relations and Integration. “We want to show how we use commercial partnerships as well as public-private partnerships to creatively solve difficult and complex problems like the Hubble service.”
She said SpaceX is looking into the capabilities of the Dragon capsule to see how it would need “adjustment in order to safely rendezvous with Hubble.”
The Times reports that without relocating, NASA may eventually have to destroy and point the telescope as it falls from orbit into the ocean.
Any potential mission would be a collaboration between SpaceX and billionaire Jared Isaacman, Polaris, planned Spaceflight series with SpaceX, One of them, Isaacman said, would include the first civilian spacewalks.
Last year, Isaacman headed Inspiration4, SpaceX’s first fully manned mission.
Over the years, the Hubble telescope has taken amazing pictures and videos of the universe, including the discovery of moons around Pluto.
The telescope is named after the pioneering American astronomer of the 20th century Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), who, among other discoveries, found evidence of the existence of other galaxies outside the Milky Way.
“Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver.”