NASA and SpaceX have agreed to study whether it is feasible to launch Hubble to a higher altitude without incurring any costs on NASA’s part. A boost like this would lengthen the observatory’s life and enable astronomers to use it for more research.
The study will look into the potential use of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which is currently used primarily for trips to the International Space Station and as a crew capsule and cargo transport shuttle. It would be the sixth mission to maintain the ailing space telescope if it were to be successful. Other private spaceflight companies are free to propose similar studies using their own rockets or spacecraft since the study is not exclusive.
Since Hubble’s orbit was degrading so quickly, it was thought impossible to extend the mission past 2010 in the early 2000s. After the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, NASA abandoned its original plan to load Hubble into a space shuttle and return it to Earth. The Space Shuttle Atlantis performed the telescope’s fifth and final maintenance visit, extending its lifespan to at least 2030. The missions of the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope will overlap as much as possible, according to astronomers, because observations made with both instruments can yield more insightful data than those made with just one of them. Hubble and Webb have recently been combined.
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