December 6, 2022

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NASA may allow billionaire astronaut and SpaceX to raise the Hubble Telescope

NASA may allow billionaire astronaut and SpaceX to raise the Hubble Telescope

Mr. Ishaqan announced that after his successful mission, called Inspiration4, into orbit last year Polaris, a follow-up collaboration with SpaceX that would make a series of trips into orbit for various technology demonstrations. The first mission, Polaris Dawn, which Mr. Isaacman said will launch at the end of the first quarter of next year, aims to reach the highest altitude of any astronaut mission since the Apollo moon landing and include the first private spacewalks.

He said that a future Polaris mission could meet up with Hubble, push it up and possibly make other repairs and upgrades to the space telescope, which has been subject to periodic outages due to technical glitches.

The space shuttle’s cargo compartment was large enough to accommodate Hubble, which is 43.5 feet long and 14 feet wide and roughly the size of a school bus. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, including the part of the torso that was discarded before the crew capsule returned to Earth, is smaller than Hubble, measuring about 27 feet high and 13 feet in diameter.

During the last shuttle mission to Hubble, astronauts installed a docking ring that was supposed to help NASA get Hubble out of orbit when needed. Crew Dragon may be able to bind to the ring to raise the observatory’s orbit.

The next steps depend on what the feasibility study emerges from.

“We will look at the capabilities of the Dragon and how it will need to be modified in order to safely rendezvous with and dock with Hubble,” said Ms. Jensen. “Details of exactly how to do it physically and how to do it safely from a track point of view, that’s all to be determined.”

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Dr. Zurbuchen said that was worth pursuing. Some NASA experts will take time to work with SpaceX, but NASA is not paying any money to SpaceX to explore the idea.

We work on crazy ideas all the time, Dr. Zurbuchen said. “Honestly, that’s what we’re supposed to do.”