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  [Discuss] NASA, SpaceX/Polaris Hubble study

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Author Topic:   [Discuss] NASA, SpaceX/Polaris Hubble study
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 52392
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-29-2022 04:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Please use this topic to discuss the NASA and SpaceX/Polaris Program study to potentially boost and service the Hubble Space Telescope.


Posts: 5347
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-29-2022 05:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If an EVA is necessary in order to facilitate grappling maybe they can replace the reaction wheels concurrently.

Big question, how much of the training infrastructure has been retained given the assumption there were to be no further service missions.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 52392
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-29-2022 07:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe all of the training mockups at Johnson Space Center were surplussed or destroyed years ago. I don't know if Goddard has anything remaining.


Posts: 254
From: Phoenix, AZ
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 09-30-2022 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mercsim   Click Here to Email mercsim     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is awesome! A model of Hubble has orbited over my desk for almost 30 years. Its only needed one re-boost after the little string broke about 10 years ago. Hmmm... Maybe I should consider a precautionary re-boost?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 52392
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-19-2024 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The SpaceX/Polaris mission to Hubble is not happening. From Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's former associate administrator for science (via X):
Even though I was not at NASA during the final steps that left of the ultimate demise (for now, at least) of the Polaris-Hubble mission, I can attest to the deep analysis and incredible and deep collaboration between SpaceX, Polaris, and Hubble experts both from NASA and STScI.

I and others briefed on multiple occasions in public, etc. and was in contact with the team and all stakeholders. The work happened like it should have when investigating the opportunities of a commercially funded mission to add value to an incredibly successful mission like Hubble.

It reminded me of the careful work that led to commercial crew and companies like Axiom Space, some of the biggest successes in space exploration this past decade. The question remains: when will science fully benefit from commercial approaches? This is what attracted me to this!

In the end, what I think we as scientists should always be after is two metrics, more and/or better science, more and/or better science per dollar. Note, that new approaches always involve questioning the status quo, and that requires the kind of trusted collaboration I saw, leadership and ultimately trying it...

Zurbuchen was partially responding to a recent NPR article that included earlier comments from Jared Isaacman and new interviews with John Grunsfeld and others calling the mission into question.

Isaacman responded (via X):

I also did not love how they pulled my quotes from podcasts. What the article does not capture is the official position of the joint study and hopefully that comes out. On surface it looks like "billionaire wants to touch Hubble and NASA said hell no", but that is not what happened. There are three positions here, but only one that truly matters:
  • My personal opinion about the source of delays, which I have never been shy about stating.

  • The personal opinion of those who chimed in late in the process, which I think the article captures well.

  • But what really matters is the joint study - Polaris + SpaceX + NASA. The team that performed the technical analysis for ~6 months and arrived at a formal recommendation.
It is unfortunate there is so much discourse over the subject. It is like new space vs. old space, or people who love SpaceX vs. hate SpaceX, incompetent tourist vs. real astronaut. It should really have only been about the mission, because if a mission was planned it would have had resources across all the organizations that participated in the study to ensure success. It is not like anyone was going to wing it, especially after a joint study was assembled to determine generally how a successful mission could be achieved.

I know a lot of people have memories of the heroic shuttle missions to save Hubble...the long EVA's, Canadarm and the giant gyros. The astronauts did an incredible job keeping Hubble going, but that was then and this is now. You can pack a lot of capabilities in to something the size of an iPhone these days. This was not lost on any of the scientists and engineers that worked on the joint study.

Would it be worth the risk to save Hubble? Many of the telescope systems have failed and most redundancy has been lost. This is why it continues to go offline. Hubble's orbit has decayed significantly and will continue to do so through solar max. It will be coming home earlier than what was represented in the article. Once it reaches a certain altitude, the prospects of a mission are all but lost. When it does, it will either be uncontrolled or come at a cost to tax payers to launch something robotic to manage it.

Had a mission been flown, and I was happy to fund it, I believe it would have resulted in the development of capabilities beneficial to the future of commercial space and along the way given Hubble a new lease on life.

I acknowledge this is not my telescope to touch and a lot of time has passed from the study till now. Government priorities change, budgets become tight, regardless of who is funding the mission, it does require contributions of resources from a lot of parties to ensure success. Regardless of what happens from here, I am glad we all, inclusive of NASA, invested the time to see if this could work. Hubble deserved that effort.

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