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6/12/2024 4:50:23 PM
Billionaire proposes SpaceX mission to upgrade Hubble telescope
Jared Isaacman,Hubble Telescope,SpaceX,Polaris Program,Hubble,Private space mission,NASA

Billionaire proposes SpaceX mission to upgrade Hubble telescope

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Richard Harris Richard Harris

Billionaire Jared Isaacman aims to extend the Hubble Telescope's life with a privately funded SpaceX mission, marking the first servicing since 2009. Despite Hubble's aging systems and atmospheric drag, Isaacman’s Polaris Program proposes innovative maintenance solutions, but the mission's feasibility remains uncertain amidst various concerns and technical challenges.

Polaris Dawn commander and billionaire Jared Isaacman has expressed a strong desire to upgrade the Hubble Telescope through a privately funded SpaceX mission. However, the feasibility of such a mission remains uncertain.

Billionaire proposes upgrading Hubble telescope via private SpaceX mission

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in service since 1990, still functions well but is experiencing gradual degradation due to atmospheric drag. Jared Isaacman, known for funding and commanding the private Inspiration4 mission in 2021, has proposed a maintenance mission to extend Hubble's operational life. This would mark the first such mission since 2009.

Isaacman, also the funder and astronaut of the Polaris Program, a series of private astronaut missions with SpaceX, aims to perform the first commercial spacewalk this year with Polaris Dawn. The Polaris Program’s Hubble proposal surfaced in 2022, and NASA subsequently invited other companies to submit their ideas. No official updates have been provided since early 2023, though internal NASA emails obtained by NPR revealed varied reactions, including concerns about the potential risks to Hubble.

The last servicing mission for Hubble in 2009, conducted by NASA, was a complex operation due to the aftermath of the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003. Initially canceled, the mission was reinstated with a backup shuttle on standby. The mission succeeded without incident, achieving significant servicing goals for Hubble.

Hubble has continued its scientific contributions, from studying the universe's expansion to monitoring planetary weather changes. However, its instruments and systems are aging, and the telescope has experienced periods of "safe modes." With the space shuttle program retired in 2011, any new servicing mission would require innovative engineering solutions and extensive planning.

NASA officials have stated that Hubble's instruments and primary subsystems should operate into the 2020s and possibly the 2030s, barring unforeseen issues. Isaacman and the Polaris Program hope to extend Hubble’s life by up to two decades through a maintenance mission.

The NPR report detailed various perspectives, including praise for Polaris' innovation and technical expertise, alongside concerns about the lack of spacewalk experience and the risks involved in servicing Hubble. NASA and SpaceX have yet to release the joint feasibility study, but Isaacman remains hopeful for a successful mission.

Isaacman acknowledged the challenges and risks, emphasizing that the mission would not be undertaken lightly. He highlighted advances in electronics that could benefit the mission and mitigate some risks. However, he noted that Hubble’s systems have deteriorated, and redundancy has been lost, leading to periodic system failures.

Despite these challenges, Isaacman believes that a successful mission could offer significant benefits for commercial space endeavors and extend Hubble’s operational life. He remains committed to the idea, recognizing the complexities and collaborative efforts required to ensure success.

In conclusion, while the proposal to upgrade Hubble via a private SpaceX mission is ambitious and faces numerous challenges, the potential benefits could be substantial. Isaacman remains optimistic about the possibility of giving Hubble a new lease on life, despite the uncertainties and risks involved.


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