Hubble Space Telescope Sinks! Two startups want to save it for free • Registration

Momentus and AstroScale, two startups specializing in space infrastructure and orbital debris, want to collaborate to upgrade NASA’s aging Hubble Space Telescope into safe orbit.

Thanks to five spacecraft, Hubble has exceeded its original mission and expected operating time Assignments Between 1993 and 2009 it sent astronauts to repair its instruments.

NASA reckons there’s still more life aboard Hubble – but only if it raises its altitude to prevent re-entry from falling into Earth’s atmosphere in the mid-2030s. Atmospheric drag is slowly distorting the satellite’s orbit, and it is expected to drop to an altitude of 500 kilometers above Earth by 2025.

In an effort to save the sinking telescope, NASA released Request for information (RFI) in December to explore possible solutions from commercial vendors. NASA isn’t going to spend any money on it, but companies that want to do the work will get „technical information and technical advice” from NASA Goddard.

Now Momentus and Astroscale have announced they are ready to collaborate on a possible future servicing mission to remove local debris that is at risk of colliding with the Hubble Space Telescope and reinsert it into safe orbit.

„The need for Hubble’s restart should be an important wake-up call to why the space industry needs a dynamic and responsive space infrastructure, and in this case, to extend opportunities to explore our universe.” said Ron Lopez, president and managing director of Astroscale US, said in a statement.

„The proliferation of in-space servicing and assembly allows us to rethink how our investments in space are managed; it’s the foundation on which the new space age is built. What we’re proposing to NASA are options — not options. It’s available during the previous five crew servicing missions and it leverages better service in space to achieve mission objectives.” It also helps advance American leadership in space.”

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Instead of sending astronauts, potential fixers want to launch an orbital service vehicle — built by Momentus and featuring components from AstroScale — that can rendezvous and capture the spacecraft. The vehicle will fire its thrusters and lift Hubble to an altitude of 50 kilometers, after which it will remove debris from its new environment.

„By leveraging Momentus’ aviation heritage with three Orbital Service Vehicles in orbit today and Astroscale’s expertise in RPOD (Rendezvous, Proximity Operations and Docking), we see our product portfolios are synergistic in support of a larger NASA mission,” said John Rudd, Momentus. CEO. „Even at 33 years old, Hubble is capable of continuing its mission; where it has aged is in its orbital stability.”

It is not known what other companies responded to NASA’s RFI because the space agency has promised to keep the information confidential. Last year, NASA agreed to study the technical feasibility of upgrading Hubble with SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and began collecting data.

However, neither that study nor the RFI guarantees that NASA will undertake a Hubble servicing mission. With new technology and future probes planned, the space agency may well decide that Hubble’s days are coming to an end. ®

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