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NASA requesting proposals for raising Hubble’s orbit

NASA has published a request for proposals from the private commercial space industry for a possible future mission to raise Hubble’s orbit.

NASA published a request for information (RFI) Dec. 22 asking industry how they would demonstrate commercial satellite servicing capabilities by raising the orbit of Hubble. The agency said it is looking for technical information about how a company would carry out the mission, the risks involved and the likelihood of success.

NASA emphasized in the RFI that it had no plans to procure a mission to reboost Hubble. “Partner(s) would be expected to participate and undertake this mission on a no-exchange-of-funds basis,” the document stated, with companies responsible for the cost for the mission.

Apparently, this RFI was issued as a direct result of the agreement between NASA and SpaceX to study a Dragon mission to do exactly this, which in turn was prompted by Jared Isaacman, as part of his private Polaris program of manned Dragon/Starship space flights. I suspect that NASA officials realized that not only were their engineering advantages to getting more proposals, there were probably legal and political reasons for opening the discussion up to the entire commercial space community.

Ideally, a Hubble reboost mission should occur by 2025, though the telescope’s orbit will remain stable into the mid-2030s.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

12 comments

  • pzatchok

    I wonder if a boost mission could also include a semi repair of the failing gyroscopes?

    Use the booster as a gyroscope and new pointing system.

  • John

    No kidding pzatchok, Hubble seems like it’s on its last legs. They need to maintain it like the shuttle did.

  • George C

    Is there any space equivalent of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_salvage
    ?
    Could anyone saving Hubble end up owning it?

  • George C: Outer Space Treaty clearly states that objects sent into space belong to whoever launched them, forever. No such salvage laws exist for space objects, in orbit or on other worlds.

    Nor would anyone want to take Hubble from NASA, who knows how to run it.

    I think the public relations value of a private servicing mission would easily pay for its cost. Imagine if you already have a business refueling and servicing satellites (such as Northrop Grumman and its Mission Extension Vehicles). You fix Hubble and you will garner millions from others clamoring for your business.

  • pzatchok

    Or just do the job and bill NASA. Easy payment plans can be worked out.

  • Scenario:

    Company A approaches NASA to buy HST, boost it, repair gyros, and make it generally functional. In return, Company A would lease it back to NASA for operation, while Company A performed necessary maintenance, including orbital station-keeping (because NASA can’t reach it, anyway).

    Probably won’t happen, because HST is a National Treasure, and old tech, to boot. If it goes anywhere, it will be the Smithsonian.

  • Andi

    “ Partner(s) would be expected to participate and undertake this mission on a no-exchange-of-funds basis,”

    So they’re looking for someone to do it for free?

  • Edward

    Andi asked: “So they’re looking for someone to do it for free?

    Unless Congress becomes willing to fund such a mission, then yes, for free. When we let Congress be in charge of the budget, we only get what Congress is willing to pay for. When We the People are willing to pay for it, we are far more likely to get what we are willing to pay for. In this case, we need government permission to boost or repair (mess with) their property.

    To change out the gyros and any instruments also requires permission by the owner (NASA/government), and it would also require cooperation with them in order to build compatible hardware. As Robert noted, Jared Isaacman has been doing a lot of his own science and engineering, but he does not seem to expect personal gain from either.

  • Jeff Wright

    Crew Dragon has that “lid.”
    Might that get in the way?

  • Richard M

    I wonder if a boost mission could also include a semi repair of the failing gyroscopes?

    I’ve heard the NASA/SpaceX study looks at that. It’s probably the easiest “repair” a mission like this could do, without much in the way of mods to the Dragon.

    But it sounds like we have to wait until spring to see the final draft released, to see what they came up with.

  • Edward

    Jeff Wright Asked: “Crew Dragon has that ‘lid.’ Might that get in the way?

    A week or two ago I had written that I don’t like the “we can’t, because” phrase. An obstacle is an opportunity to find a solution. The problem is that Hubble needs to be raised in orbit and needs routine maintenance in order to extend its lifespan. As a tremendously useful telescope, this lifespan is worth extending. The assets that we have available to solve this problem are limited, but we can make modifications that make them useful to solve the problem.

    The forward nosecone does not get in the way for docking to the ISS, and with a little thinking then someone should be able to come up with a way to connect a Dragon to Hubble in order to raise the orbit and to perform maintenance. Neither Dragon nor Starliner are ideal for this task, but they are what we have available now. Starship may be more versatile, but it is not available until sometime in the future.

    What this request for information means is that we need more resources than we have, but it also means that we are far closer now to having those resources than we were just a few years ago, before commercial space was able to innovate its own solutions to the problems in space. Government was not able to supply the innovations that it needed to keep Hubble running, but incentives to supply customers with what they want give commercial companies the ability to raise the funds that government is not willing to spend. Resources that government has for a one-time mission use are continually useful to the commercial sector. By the way, this is yet another mission that no one would expend the high cost of a SLS launcher or an Orion. This is why NASA has turned to commercial space for solutions.

    This is yet another example of what we get when We the People are able to run things. The government can even get what it wants while we get what we want. When the government runs things, government does not always get what it wants. But We the People rarely get what we want; all we get is what government wants.

    NASA may have brilliant minds, but Congress squanders those minds by not funding their ideas. These ideas are not what Congress wants. Many of these ideas are what We the People want.

    Four hundred years on this continent, working under free market capitalism, We the People have turned a backwoods village into a great nation. In sixty years, the government under central control has turned the ability to reach the moon into the ability to reach low Earth orbit into the inability to reach orbit at all. Progress is not automatic. Progress takes very hard work, and government is rarely willing to work very hard.
    https://www.youtube.com/shorts/f1XjghimSO4 (one minute)

    NASA worked very hard in the 1960s, but government did not support continued hard work. Without it, government could not create a way to continue supporting Hubble.

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