On April 25, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was deployed from the cargo bay of space shuttle Discovery. Hubble, pictured here during its release, has one of its two solar array panels deployed while still in the grasp of Discovery's remote manipulator system. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo
A six-month study aims to collect data that will determine whether Hubble can move into a more stable orbit with the help of SpaceX capsules. Hubble is falling out of its original orbit, established at about 370 miles above the Earth's surface in 1990. Since then, it's dropped about 15 miles and scientists worry it may eventually fall into the atmosphere and burn up.
"Reboosting Hubble into a higher, more stable orbit could add multiple years of operations to its life," NASA said.
Diminishing funds for the U.S. space agency prompted outreach to the private sector. Working in coordination with the Polaris Program, a program organized by entrepreneur James Isaacman, NASA hopes the partnership will yield significant and far-reaching results. Isaacman commanded the first all-civilian spaceflight last year.
"As our fleet grows, we want to explore a wide range of opportunities to support the most robust, superlative science missions possible," said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the science mission directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off seconds after 3:22 PM with the first manned Crew Dragon spacecraft from Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on Saturday, May 30, 2020. The mission, classified as Crew Demo 2, is flying NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley
and Bob Behnken
and is the first manned mission from the Center in over nine years. .Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
Space X is already using its Dragon capsule to bring astronauts to and from the International Space Station, which has an average orbit some 250 miles above the Earth's surface.
"With the James Webb telescope now online, Hubble's mission has only gained in importance," Isaacman told the BBC. "It's absolutely exciting to think about the possibility of extending the life and capabilities of one of our greatest explorers."
As NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) intentionally crashed into Dimorphos, the asteroid moonlet in the double-asteroid system of Didymos, on Tuesday, two of the great observatories, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space
Telescope (BLUE) and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (RED), captured views of the unique experiment. The DART impact observations mark the first time that NASA used Webb and Hubble to simultaneously observe the same celestial target. Photos courtesy of NASA/ESA/UPI