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

NASA and SpaceX have signed an agreement to study the possibility of using a Dragon spacecraft to launch the Hubble telescope into higher orbit. The Hubble telescope’s orbit will decay over time due to atmospheric drag, and making it more stable again could add years to its lifetime. SpaceX proposed the idea a few months ago in partnership with the Polaris program, the manned spaceflight initiative organized by billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman. If you remember, Isaacman funded Inspiration4, the first mission to put an all-civilian crew into orbit in 2021.

The space agency said it will not spend any money on the study and there are no current plans to fund a mission to relaunch the Hubble using a Dragon spacecraft. Corresponding The New York Times, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Science, said during a press conference: “I want to be absolutely clear. We’re not making any announcement today that we will definitely proceed with such a plan.” NASA and SpaceX haven’t even reached an exclusive agreement, meaning other companies can propose studies using their spacecraft as a model. At this point, this partnership is all about exploring the possibilities.

The teams will spend six months collecting technical data from both Hubble and the Dragon spacecraft. They will then use this information to determine if it is safe for the capsule to rendezvous with and dock with the telescope and to figure out how to physically take Hubble to a higher altitude. At the same conference, Jessica Jensen, Vice President of Customer Operations at SpaceX stated, “We want to push the boundaries of current technology. We want to show how we use commercial partnerships as well as public-private partnerships to creatively solve challenges on complex problem missions like the maintenance of Hubble.” In addition to potentially adding years to the life of the 32-year-old telescope, the maintenance solutions found in the study could can also be applied to other spacecraft in low earth orbit.

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