NASA and SpaceX will study the possibility of using a Dragon capsule to boost Hubble's orbit

It could add years to the aging telescope's life.

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Mariella Moon
September 30, 2022 9:30 AM
In this article: news, Dragon, Hubble, tomorrow, SpaceX
Hubble Telescope
NASA

NASA and SpaceX have signed an agreement to study the possibility of using a Dragon spacecraft to lift the Hubble telescope to a higher orbit. The Hubble telescope's orbit decays over time due to atmospheric drag, and reboosting it to a more stable one could add more years to its life. SpaceX proposed the idea several months ago in partnership with the Polaris Program, the human spaceflight initiative organized by billionaire businessman, Jared Isaacman. If you'll recall, Isaacman funded Inspiration4, the first mission to launch an all-civilian crew to orbit back in 2021. 

The space agency said it's not going to spend any money for the study and there are no plans to fund a mission to reboost the Hubble with a Dragon spacecraft at the moment. According to The New York Times, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science, said during a news conference: "I want to be absolutely clear. We're not making an announcement today that we definitely will go forward with a plan like this." NASA and SpaceX didn't even enter an exclusive agreement, which means other companies can propose studies with their spacecraft as the model. At this point, this partnership is all about looking at the possibilities. 

The teams will spend six months collecting technical data from both Hubble and the Dragon spacecraft. They'll then use that information to determine whether it's safe for the capsule to rendezvous and dock with the telescope, as well as to figure out how it can physically raise Hubble to a higher altitude. At the same conference, SpaceX VP of customer operations Jessica Jensen explained: "What we want to do is expand the boundaries of current technology. We want to show how we use commercial partnerships as well as the public-private partnerships to creatively solve challenging and complex problem missions such as servicing Hubble." In addition to potentially adding years to the 32-year-old telescope's life, the servicing solutions the study finds could also be applied to other spacecraft in near-Earth orbit.

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NASA and SpaceX will study the possibility of using a Dragon capsule to boost Hubble's orbit