The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has reportedly teamed with billionaire astronaut, Jared Isaacman, and Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX, for a new study to determine whether the lifespan of the famous Hubble telescope can be extended through a private mission.
The American space agency has signed a new agreement with the two to study the possibility of deploying a SpaceX spacecraft with can dock with Hubble, in order to extend its lifespan by altering its orbit.
Thomas Zurbuchen, Head of NASA Science Mission Directorate, stated that SpaceX approached the agency with the idea a few months back.
The Hubble telescope is expected to retire by the end of this decade based on its current decline in orbit. NASA says that the telescope is being stabilized with three gyroscopes, and estimates that if moved to a higher altitude, to where it initially started from, Hubble can operate for 15-20 years more.
Zurbuchen added that the agreement between SpaceX and NASA does not include any transfer of funds, and that the private space company is funding its participation.
During the study, anticipated to last for six months, SpaceX will examine how it can dock its Crew Dragon capsule with Hubble, and whether any modification will be required to the capsule for the same. Meanwhile NASA will gather technical data from the telescope.
For the record, Hubble was launched over 30 years ago and has helped astronomers make significant discoveries. During that time, NASA launched five missions for repairing and replacing parts of the spacecraft with its own Space Shuttle vehicles.
Isaacman, who was part of the crew aboard SpaceX’s first private flight to orbit in 2021, recently launched the Polaris Program to carry out crewed spaceflight missions. Although there is no guarantee of a mission to Hubble, the billionaire has stated that the potential flight will fit into the program’s established parameters.
The first mission under Polaris, called Polaris Dawn, is set to take off in March. Isaacman will be leading a crew of four in the Crew Dragon capsule. The program is expected to culminate with its third mission; the first crewed launch of Starship, SpaceX’s biggest, most powerful rocket to-date.