SpaceX, in collaboration with NASA, will study whether it is possible for the company to put the Hubble Space Telescope into a more stable orbit to further extend the groundbreaking telescope’s lifespan.
When it was launched in 1990, the telescope was expected to stay in operation for roughly 15 years. It has instead been taking incredible photos for more than 32 years, and was, until the James Webb Space Telescope became operational this summer, the most advanced space telescope. Because of drag associated with its orbit, the telescope is slowly falling back to Earth; NASA believes at this point that it will fall back to Earth sometime between 2030 and 2040.
“NASA and SpaceX signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement Thursday, Sept. 22, to study the feasibility of a SpaceX and Polaris Program idea to boost the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope into a higher orbit with the Dragon spacecraft, at no cost to the government,” NASA said in a press release. “There are no plans for NASA to conduct or fund a servicing mission or compete this opportunity; the study is designed to help the agency understand the commercial possibilities.”
The Hubble Space Telescope is the only space telescope designed to be serviced by human astronauts. NASA astronauts have made several high risk, astounding spacewalks to fix and maintain the telescope.
NASA says that the SpaceX study will take six months, and it will focus on whether the telescope can be pushed into a higher orbit, which “could add multiple years of operations to its life.”